Ed Hernandez and the Lieutenant Governor Bully Pulpit

Ed Hernandez has begun a five-month sprint to the June primary for lieutenant governor. But why?

Ed_hernandezThe 60-year-old West Covina state Senate Democrat has more than a decade of California legislative accomplishments behind him, a prosperous San Gabriel Valley optometry business, a daughter who has entered politics and grandchildren. As for the lieutenant governor job, the current occupant derides it as a ceremonial post with no real authority.

But Hernandez disagrees.

“I believe lieutenant governor is the most important constitutional office in the state of California, outside of the governor, and I think previous lieutenant governors haven’t taken advantage of that,” he said in a recent interview. “I want to take all those years of legislative experience and business experience into that office and make something of it.”

First elected to the Assembly in 2006, Hernandez won a seat in the state Senate in 2010. As chairman of the health committee, he was one of the primary architects behind the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in California. Recently, he took on Big Pharma by passing a groundbreaking transparency law to help combat the skyrocketing and unsustainable prices of prescription medicine in California.

As an optometrist, he knows how important health care access is and how difficult it can be for some. He supports the goal of universal health care, but says there needs to be the political will to take on difficult choices:

“The real, true conversations are about market reform, and how do we control cost. The second is our two-tiered health care system, where poor people don’t have access to healthcare, and wealthy people do. Those are the conversations we have to have.”

The political climate has been especially contentious lately. The grandson of Mexican immigrants, Hernandez said the anger in the Latino community reminds him of when Prop. 187, which he fought against, was approved. The 1994 proposition cut off state services, including health care and public education, to those in the country illegally. It was later overturned.

“I’ve never seen so much political activism. I started traveling the state to talk to people about the Affordable Care Act, and there were hundreds and thousands of people showing up at town halls,” he said. “And we had done town halls before that, for Covered California, and you would get maybe at most 100. Now, these were packed houses, in gyms and high schools. There is a lot of anger out there, but also among the Latino communities and population.”

An unprecedented number of strong minority candidates are on the ballot, he noted. If all win — Antonio Villaraigosa, running for governor; Kevin de León, for U.S. Senate; Xavier Becerra, for attorney general; Ricardo Lara, for insurance commissioner; Fiona Ma, for state treasurer; and Betty Yee and Alex Padilla, running for re-election as state controller and secretary of state — all the offices would be non-white for the first time ever in California.

“I’m predicting that you are going to see a large voter turnout of Latinos that could propel these candidates to higher office,” he said.

Hernandez also said he expects that the current movement exposing and ending sexual misconduct in California, and across the country and industries, will change the culture forever.

“No one, male or female, should ever be subjected to any kind of inappropriate advances, and no one should take advantage of an individual because they have some type of influence over them for any inappropriate reason,” he said.

If Hernandez wins, in eight years, he would still be younger than Jerry Brown when he ran for governor in 2010. Would the La Puente native run for an office that has more “real authority”?

“I don’t know. We’ll see,” he said. “Right now, I’m totally concentrating to be the next lieutenant governor and supporting whoever our next governor’s going to be.”

Published in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Los Angeles Daily News and Pasadena Star-News

Latinos, Misconduct and a San Gabriel Valley Senate Race

Published in the Pasadena Star News

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 engodds-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 casusan rubiondidate 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.