by Todd Beeton, Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 01:49:49 PM EDT
(disclosure: while the post below is not an advocacy post, I should disclose that I am supporting Judy Chu in this race and have applied for a position on her campaign)
Last weekend I attended the campaign launch of State Senator Gil Cedillo running to replace Hilda Solis as the representative for CA's 32nd district. Yesterday was Board of Equalization Chair Judy Chu's turn to launch her campaign for the seat. The special primary election has been set for May 19th with the general election set for July 14 but as this district is solidly Democratic, the primary is the election; whichever Democrat wins on May 19th will be the next member of the House from CA-32.
Judy Chu's event was held in a smaller venue than Cedillo's and had fewer attendees but had a few things going for it that Cedillo didn't. First was the visibility. Chu had bands of young people out on the street with signs cheering on Chu urging cars to honk in support. Also, while there was no member of congress on hand to tout Chu as Xavier Becerra did for Cedillo, Chu had a larger and more diverse group of local leaders speak on her behalf ranging from State Contoller John Chiang to Assemblymen Ed Hernandez and Mike Eng (Judy's husband) to Hilda Solis's sister Irma. While Cedillo spoke to a room full of primarily hispanic supporters (I'd say 90+%), the mix of Asian, hispanic and white faces there to support Judy and speak on her behalf was notable. While Cedillo is trying to tap into the majority hispanic population in the district (60% hispanic vs. 20% Asian), Judy Chu, having served on the Monterey Park City Council, in the Assembly and now on the Board of Equalization, already has a voting base in the district that spans all ethnic groups. Cedillo on the other hand has never represented any part of this district before.
There were three primary messages on display yesterday that we can no doubt expect to be at the heart of Chu's campaign moving forward:
- Judy Chu is Hilda Solis's choice to replace her in Congress
While the new Labor Secretary is not coming right out and endorsing Judy Chu, the campaign event had Hilda's sister Irma on hand to introduce Judy, saying things like "we are definitely supporting Judy Chu" and "my sister has left a legacy here...Judy can run with it." In addition, Judy made a point of telling the story of her improbable election to the Assembly in 2000; what put her over the top: the endorsement of Hilda Solis.
- The 32nd district should be represented by someone FROM the district (aka "Psst, Gil Cedillo is a carpetbagger")
Gil Cedillo's State Senate district is close by but does not overlap the district, so the Chu campaign got in a few jabs at him without using the word "carpetbagger" or even naming Cedillo personally. John Chiang said "We need someone who was born in the San Gabriel Valley to represent the San Gabriel Valley, someone who knows it as something more than just a place you drive through to get to Las Vegas" and a local mayor urged "only people from this valley know the needs of this valley." Chu's various positions representing the district were repeated by several speakers with the clear message that there is only one candidate in the race with experience representing voters of this district in elected office before.
- Judy Chu is the underdog
Assemblyman Ed Hernandez said it flat out: "Don't fool yourselves, we are the underdog." While Judy Chu touts the endorsement of all three local members of the Assembly, a proxy endorsement of the outgoing member of Congress, the support of prominent electeds John Chiang and Antonio Villaraigosa as well as the hugely important support of the California Labor Federation, the fact remains that Chu is an Asian-American running in an hispanic-majority district, something Cedillo hopes to capitalize on. In realistic terms, Chu is probably more front-runner than underdog but as long as the race is primarily covered through a demographic prism, it's smart of Chu's campaign to cast Chu as the one with the huge mountain to climb.
- Chu is about inclusion, Cedillo is about exclusion
At last week's campaign launch, Cedillo and endorsers such as Rep. Xavier Becerra and Supervisor Goria Molina were using not so subtle language to tell the mostly hispanic crowd that Cedillo is the only candidate who's been fighting for "our community." Chu took this on directly:
Look at the diversity that's in this room. We have young students, we have senior citizens; we have Democrats, we have Republicans; we have lots of folks from labor, we have folks from business; we have all ethnic groups represented right here in this room. You know there are some candidates who are preaching the politics of exclusion but you know what will be the greatest factor in my campaign, it will be the politics of inclusion. This is a campaign that will say everybody has a place in this district and when we come together the sum is greater than its parts."
It's already getting interesting. Look for more updates on this race from the ground over the next 2 months.