As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Sunday, March 08, 2009

CA-32: Cedillo Masses An Army In El Monte

The San Gabriel Valley is a unique area. Within 5 minutes of Gil Cedillo's campaign kickoff for Congress yesterday in El Monte, I visited a 200 year-old Spanish mission, and a Pho shop in Alhambra where I was the only guy in there who didn't speak Cantonese. This is a series of highly homogeneous communities, which doesn't have the same media, doesn't have the same leadership, and doesn't even speak the same language.

However, it's a demographic reality that the district is over 60% Latino while being about 18% Asian. This is an urban, middle-class Hispanic district. And while Gil Cedillo doesn't represent it in the State Senate, he drew a lot of support to his initial campaign event yesterday. Close to 400 people packed a storefront in El Monte to get started on the campaign. Before there's even a date set for the primary election (though everyone assumes it will be folded into the May 19 special election), yesterday Cedillo supporters were out canvassing the district.

But first, there were a series of speeches and endorsements. 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." It's clear that this is a replay of the CA-37 special election, where Laura Richardson pushed an African-American/Hispanic divide. With Cedillo's main competition being Judy Chu, there's definitely going to be some of that Hispanic/Asian divide in this race, though I imagine it will be more respectful that Richardson's toxicity.

What complicates this is that Chu received the Cal Labor Fed endorsement and actually has support from a few Latino lawmakers of her own. Cedillo was sure to tout his 100% labor scorecard in his short address. In the rest, he talked about a campaign of faith and hope, strength and leadership. He called the San Gabriel Valley "a slice of America," where families come to buy a home, raise children, and get an education. And he talked about the need to make the economy work for those families, with a particular emphasis on health care (he mentioned how great it would be to build a hospital with the stimulus money - even though I'm pretty sure that won't be something the stimulus can do). Cedillo is at his best when talking about immigration. His tireless support for the California version of the DREAM Act, to allow undocumented students to attend college and be eligible for financial aid, has earned him a sterling reputation among young people, many of whom were there volunteering yesterday.

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. The other factor in this race is Emanuel Pleitez, who liveblogged at FDL yesterday. He is a local, with a small but strong group of former Obama organizers working with him. If you look at this strictly on the level of identity politics, having Pleitez in the race probably helps Judy Chu a bit. The big question, of course, is who is going to turn out their voters.

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