Next week, on March 3, dozens of Angelenos will go to the polls, and voters in the East Valley will spin the Cindy Montañez/Nury Martinez wheel for a third time. East Valley elections have become a recipe for enormous upsets, so much so that it's enough to cause one to wonder how voters there make up their minds.
First was the 2013 LAUSD school board race, when little-known school teacher Monica Ratliff defeated then–Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's hand-picked candidate, Antonio Sanchez. OK, fine. You could say it was low turnout, Latinos didn't show up to the polls, they didn't like Villaraigosa. Whatever. Then, later that year, voters chose Nury Martinez over Cindy Montañez in a runoff – months after voting overwhelmingly, in the primary, for Montañez. What the hell?
Then, last year, the biggest upset of them all, Patty Lopez unseated State Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, a politician tipped to be the next California Speaker of the Assembly. To call Lopez an underdog doesn't quite capture it. Bocanegra finished first in the primary by nearly 40 points. Lopez raised only around $10,000, and didn't even fill out the right paperwork for campaign financial disclosures. When reporters interviewed her the day after her shocking victory, they discovered Lopez spoke limited, broken English (Spanish is her first language).
And so for Cindy vs. Nury Part III – to be held just 18 months after Part II – the outcome is anyone's guess.
Martinez is considered the frontrunner. She's the incumbent, has raised far more money than her opponent, and has a couple of independent expenditure campaigns sending out mail on her behalf, one of which is funded by the L.A. County Federation of Labor.
But don't count Montañez out just yet. She received the endorsement of a little newspaper called the L.A. Times, who called Martinez's tenure “adequate,” before hailing Montañez as “independent and thoughtful,” and as possessing “encyclopedic knowledge of state and local government.”
The Daily News, a more influential paper in the San Fernando Valley, endorsed the incumbent, calling it “too soon to pass judgment on Martinez.”
So that would seem to make Martinez the front-runner, right? But with East Valley voters apparently enjoying the democratic right to dethrone incumbents and toss front-runners to the wayside, maybe Montañez is the front-runner? But then … then …