The Race for Hilda Solis' Seat: Let the Bloodbath Begin

Yesterday's filing deadline to fill Hilda Solis' Congressional seat for the largely San Gabriel Valley 32nd District found a dozen candidates in the running. Three of them are sacrificial Republicans, plus one Libertarian, but the bulk are Democrats. The two frontrunners are Judy Chu, currently a member of the State Board of Equalization, and State Senator Gil Cedillo. A May 19 primary will determine the final matchup that takes place July 14, but basically whoever wins the Democratic primary wins the seat. The race is a progressive's nightmare, as it pits two candidates who are very popular with liberal Southern Californians and who both emerged in that post-Bradley-era political crucible marked by a union renaissance and Latino empowerment.

Like Solis, Chu has long been a supporter of organized labor and is a familiar face at unionization rallies and Labor Day breakfasts. She also occupies a place in the feminized constellation of elected officials whose stars include Solis and Gloria Romero. Chu's Web site also emphasizes this sense of political sorority, featuring photos of her with labor leaders Maria Elena Durazo and Dolores Huerta, and with Congresswoman Diane Watson. Her list of endorsements tilt toward female elected officials, including  L.A. Controller-elect Wendy Greuel and state senators Carol Liu and Fran Pavley, along with Congresswoman Jackie Speier and ex-state senator Sheila Kuehl. Not surprisingly during a time of economic meltdown, Chu, a psychologist, former assemblywoman and mayor of Monterey Park, is emphasizing her financial acumen as "Dr. Chu," Equalization Board Member.

It remains to be seen how much a factor ethnic loyalties will play

in the election. Chu is Asian while her chief opponent, Gil Cedillo, is

Latino in a district in which Latinos substantially outnumber Asian

voters. Chu did not win the endorsements of liberal sisters Romero or

Martha Escutia, who are supporting Cedillo. Cedillo can also count on a

sizable chunk of union votes, having been a longtime leader of Service

Employees International Union Local 660 before moving to Sacramento.

Cedillo's Web site emphasizes how well he gets along with guys --

with pictures of him throwing footballs, playing soccer, posing with cops

and mostly male politicians.  His bio stresses his "championing tough

Homeland Security and Anti-Gang legislation," and Cedillo's backers

include Sheriff Lee Baca and LAPD Chief Bill Bratton.

The race

promises to be brutal as each side brings to the fray supporters who are nominally

on the same end of the political spectrum but who divide radically

along personality lines and along philosophical fine print. Hilda Solis, whose

seat Chu and Cedillo are fighting for, is the new Labor Secretary, and

has not endorsed anyone. That may well be the most diplomatic gesture

of Solis' career.

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