It’s early in the 2018 political season, but not too early to ask if the tumultuous climate at the state Capitol and energized Latinos in an age of Trump will decide who may win the San Gabriel Valley Senate seat to replace Ed Hernandez. Hernandez is term-limited out and running for lieutenant governor.
Without an incumbent, these races are usually about local issues, endorsements, who has the most campaign money and who knocks on the most doors. But this season will be different.
California Latino and Latino voters should be motivated to vote in numbers that reflect their majority. And the eruption of sexual misconduct allegations in the Legislature, and across the country, could create a “Year of the Woman” movement in California politics, but also may turn voters off disgusted by the misdeeds.
Some candidates are already considered frontrunners for the 22nd Senate District seat that includes Alhambra, Monterey Park, San Gabriel, Rosemead, El Monte, South El Monte, Baldwin Park, Irwindale, Industry, La Puente, West Covina, Azusa, Covina, Temple City, Arcadia and surrounding neighborhoods.
Former Assemblyman Mike Eng, term-limited out in 2012, has long been viewed as the odds-on favorite to win. Married to Congresswoman Judy Chu, Eng, a former Monterey Park councilman and recently an LA Community College District trustee, has long-standing ties with local and state officials and raised more than $1 million in campaign money.
Among his many endorsements are high-profile names that include Sen. Hernandez, current Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins, former state Senate leader Kevin de León, now running for U.S. Senate, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and Supervisor Hilda Solis.
Solis is especially important because of her connection to the SGV Latino community. This is a critical base for Eng, a Chinese-American in a district with a small Asian population, who will need crossover votes to win in majority Latino district.
Baldwin City Councilwoman Susan Rubio may prove to be the most formidable candidate in an unprecedented era for woman in politics and an energized Latino base. The strong candidacies of Ed Hernandez and Antonio Villaraigosa, running for governor, may also help.
An elementary school teacher, Rubio was first elected in 2005 as Baldwin Park city clerk. Since 2009, she has served on the council. She has $135,000 in her campaign fund and her endorsements include Secretary of State Alex Padilla, the state’s Democratic Legislative Women’s Caucus and numerous state Senate and local officials.
But she has also emerged as the state Legislature is engulfed in accusations of blatant sexual harassment and abuse. Elected officials have been forced to resign with others expected, and women leaders have condemned the “pervasive” culture of misconduct.
Unfortunately, Rubio has experience confronting similar behavior. In 2016, Rubio, in highly publicized court documents, said that her then-husband, former Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, had been violently abusing her. She obtained a restraining order and later divorced him. He later lost a congressional bid.
In addition, if she needs any advice on how to beat a party favorite, she just has to call up her sister, Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio, who beat a candidate with major endorsements in the 2016 primary.
The tumult in the Capitol has nothing to do with Eng but he may be hurt if voters demand more female political representation.
In addition, while Eng has the state experience, financial strength and endorsements, winning in a majority Latino district in this election may be a challenge. Yet he can look at another candidate’s history for guidance as well – his wife’s.
Chu beat a Latino candidate in a similar district to win a seat to congress in 2009, albeit a special election. That district closely matched the 22nd.
As I said, it’s early. Also in the race are Baldwin Park City Councilwoman Monica Garcia, El Monte Councilwoman Victoria Martinez, union organizer Ruben Sierra and Michael Adams. The landscape could change.