The Real Political Fights are at the Local Level

Republican vs. Democrat: Who cares!

When it comes to the San Fernando Valley, the real political fights are at the local level among Democrats.

Many will be watching the race for state’s 39th Assembly District, a rematch between incumbent Patty Lopez and Raul Bocanegra, the two leading contenders.

Two years ago Lopez, considered a political neophyte with little money and a grassroots team of mostly women and immigrants, walked the district and knocked on doors. Bocanegra ignored them and took his seat so much for granted that he didn’t even campaign, instead walking for candidates in other districts.

Bocanegra got spanked.

Lopez and her supporters made history by beating all political odds and beat Bocanegra by 467 votes. That upset sent political shockwaves up and down the state.

 Now this time around Bocanegra has spent more than half a million dollars to win the seat back.

It was an embarrassing loss for Bocanegra. He’s now flooding the district with expensive television ads and scores of mailers. Residents are receiving so many mailings from him each day that they’ve started to complain; on his Facebook page they have asked about his environmental position on “killing trees.”

Lopez faced strong criticism for her lack of political experience,and has even been slammed by her foes for speaking English with a heavy Spanish accent. She’s countered the criticism by pointing out that “California is home to nearly ten million immigrants.”

Her supporters have pointed out that she’s learned much while serving on the Assembly floor, and (with support) has successfully put forth bills that include a utility saving clothesline legislation that would allow residents including tenants to use outdoor sunlight to dry their clothes.

While detractors have considered Lopez’s bills as softballs, supporters point out that she has responded to the basic needs of those who haven’t been represented.

But while Lopez has made it through a learning curve, has her political feet and is now the incumbent, Bocanegra has called in all of his political “chits,” forcing Lopez to yet again run a modest campaign with a largely grassroots team.

Her only major endorsement comes from state Assembly speaker Anthony Rendon, who has personally donated to Lopez’s campaign. Lopez has also received contributions from the California Teachers Association for Better Citizenship and the California Nurses Association PAC.

Meanwhile, Bocanegra has received the financial and political backing of the Democratic party, and seemingly every other special interest group. He is bolstered by his long time foundation of friends and political associates that are viewed as the northeast San Fernando Valley’s political “machine” — L.A. City council members Nury Martinez and Felipe Fuentes, Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Congressman Tony Cardenas.

One key issue that Bocanegra has continued to skirt throughout his renewed campaign is Governor Brown’s vanity project, the California High-Speed Rail, which across the board isn’t wanted by residents throughout the district.

Several community meetings have been held in the district, and Bocanegra has failed to attend any of them since he lost the election. He did, however, attend a candidate’s forum held by many residents who oppose the high-speed rail. When asked about his position, Bocanega has hedged. When pressed, he has said he doesn’t support putting the rail above ground and near homes.

Bocanegra has received a political contribution from the Cordoba Corp., which is providing a variety of services for the high-speed rail including project management.

Lopez has maintained that, because “her community doesn’t want the high-speed rail,” she cannot support it, “even if hurts me to go against the Governor and others in Sacramento.”

Another interesting race is in the 29th Congressional District, which features incumbent Tony Cardenas (D-Panorama City) against former state legislator and Los Angeles City Councilmember Richard Alarcon who raised eyebrows by jumping back into the political race after an appeals court threw out a conviction of voter fraud against him, after a jury determined he had lied about living in his district when he ran for the L.A. City Council.

Alarcon is still not out of the woods; he and his wife will be retried for perjury and voter fraud, and are expected back in court at the end of the  month.

Cardenas, on the other hand, has had to contend with large legal fees following a Grand Jury subpoena received by one of his key staff members last year. Last year grand jury subpoenas were also issued to several aides of Martinez, and a staffer of Fuentes. However, it has yet to be determined if there is a link.