CA-32 Cedillo take note: Voto Latino is not a "gang"

I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley in Los Angeles County, California, in the district formerly represented by now Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.  Like me, 60 percent of the residents of Congressional District 32 are Latino.  That didn't stop my mother and I both from voting for a Chinese-American, Judy Chu, when she ran and re-ran for Monterey Park City Council in the 80s and 90s.  Nor, by the way, did it stop then-Assemblymember and Latina Hilda Solis from endorsing her.

Today there's a pitched battle to fill Solis' very large shoes, with Judy Chu, currently serving on the state Board of Equalization, running against State Senator Gil Cedillo.  Cedillo's main point of persuasion for voters seems to be that since the 32nd district is a Latino district, as a Latino he is better suited to represent it.

Unfortunately for the Cedillo campaign, however, he's not the only candidate in the race with that qualification.  Emanuel Pleitez, a 26 year-old Mexican/Salvadoran-American who served on Obama's Treasury Department Transition Team, though trailing in third place, is apparently close enough on Cedillo's tails to find himself the target of a vicious piece of attack mail.  The message of the mail piece: Pleitez is a "party animal." The evidence: Pictures on Facebook.

It's no longer necessary at this point to further describe how innocent these pictures actually were; Calitics and The Hill have already done a great job of it.  However, given Cedillo's primary qualification for office, it's worth pointing out another detail his attack piece got wrong.

In the mailer, Cedillo accuses Pleitez of "flashing gang signs -- and then posting the pictures on the internet." It then goes on to ask rhetorically, "Doesn't he know about the lives and neighborhoods that have been destroyed by the gangs?"

If Cedillo knew the movement behind Latino political empowerment a bit better, he may have recognized that the woman standing next to Pleitez in one of those photos is Rosario Dawson, star of 'Rent' and '25th Hour' and founder of Voto Latino.  The "gang signs" the two of them are "flashing" are a 'V' and an 'L,' as in, 'Voto Latino.'  Voto Latino's mission is to empower Latino communities like CD-32 by getting out the vote and promoting civic engagement.  Admirably, Pleitez served on the organization's Board of Directors.

Perhaps failing to recognize the hand gestures for what they were was a simple oversight by an ignorant communications staffer.  But eagerly jumping to the conclusion that Pleitez was endorsing gang activity on Facebook at the expense of families in the 32nd district was a reckless and malicious ploy to attract cheap votes.

The tragedy is that Cedillo has been nothing short of heroic in California in his numerous fights in the State Legislature on behalf of undocumented immigrants.  But in an all-too-typical phenomenon among politicians, the integrity that inspired him to take on these principled fights in the State Capitol have evaporated on the campaign trail.

The good news is, desperate attacks like these tend to backfire.  Unfortunately, they tend to turn people away from important elections in the process.  Senator Cedillo should bear both of these facts in mind next time he decides to go negative on his opponents.

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CA-32: The Fight To Replace Hilda Solis Begins

At the beginning of March, there were three vacant House seats: Rahm Emanuel's (IL-05), Kirsten Gillibrand's (NY-20) and newly confirmed Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis's (CA-32.) As of the end of this month, the special Democratic primary in Solis's Southern California district will be the last of the three -- most likely to be folded into the May 19th CA statewide special -- and it's shaping up to be fairly interesting.

In the field so far are three candidates: CA Board of Equalization Chair Judy Chu, State Senator Gil Cedillo and former Obama Treasury transition member Emanuel Pleitez. The district has a D+17 partisan voting index and so whoever wins the primary can be assured to win the election. The demographics of the district make this race extremely interesting. Judy Chu has represented the largely Asian Monterey Park Assembly district but the congressional district is just about 18% Asian and 60% Hispanic. Hence Gil Cedillo swooping in to run for a congressional district that does not overlap with his nearby State Senate district at all. Pleitez will be competing with Cedillo for the hispanic vote but the fact remains that only Chu has a local voting base.

I attended Cedillo's launch event in El Monte yesterday where Rep. Xavier Becerra officially endorsed Cedillo in front of a 95% hispanic -- and very enthusiastic -- audience and joined other local hispanic leaders on stage to rally on behalf of Cedillo.

David Dayen of Calitics was there as well:

Cedillo will have the backing of the Latino political establishment in the area.  The big news yesterday was that Rep. Xavier Becerra, of the neighboring district of CA-31, was out to endorse.  He joins the local county supervisor Gloria Molina, the local city councilman Ed Reyes (a small part of the district includes LA City), former Rep. Esteban Torres, and several other councilmembers and local politicos in giving their endorsement to Cedillo.  Molina even intimated that Congressional Hispanic Caucus support would be coming.  There was some not-all-that-subtle rhetoric about "our community" and "our people." 

But I think he's right to be skeptical of the size and enthusiasm of the crowd as an indicator of the likelihood of Cedillo to win the hispanic vote in the district.

I don't know how many of those young people are eligible to vote, however, and in particular, eligible in that district.  Cedillo will have no shortage of volunteers, but he doesn't completely have a voting base inside the district, having never represented it.  Outside of Molina, the endorsees are not by and large from the population centers of the district, either.

Not to mention the fact that Chu has been endorsed by an impressive array of hispanic leaders herself and has received perhaps the most important endorsement in what is likely to be a lowturnout election, the California Labor Federation.

While not the most consequential race in the world (the fact is that one progressive will be replaced by another) this is going to be a pretty interesting race. Expect many updates from the ground over the next few months.

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