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Monday, June 25, 2007

CA-37: Special Election Tuesday

Voters in California's Thirty-Seventh District (Long Beach, Compton, Carson & South LA) go to the polls on Tuesday in the special election primary to elect a replacement to the late Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald. As with most CA districts, this is a "safe" seat and no one doubts the Democrats will hold onto this urban seat. The drama is whether a Latino or African-American candidate will emerge victorious. The diverse district is 25% African-American and 20% Latino and the area has long been represented by an African-American in Congress.

According to the LA Times, the crowded field of eighteen candidates (17 will be on the ballot with one write-in qualified) is wrapping up a fast paced six week campaign with two frontrunners, state Sen. Jenny Oropeza and Assemblywoman Laura Richardson. The race is too close to call 48 hours before the polls open. Under California law, if no candidate receives 50% +1 (highly unlikely in such a crowded field) the top Democrat and the top Republican will face voters in the special general on August 21. With Dems holding a huge registration advantage (57% Dem -20% GOP), the top Democrat will be the presumptive new member of Congress.

The Times writes about the shifting power of the LA-area's ethnic communities in a Sunday Op-ed piece:

The contest in the 37th Congressional District, which includes most of Long Beach, Carson and Compton, could be an exception to an unwritten political rule in Los Angeles: Growing Latino political clout doesn't come at the expense of black political power.In a city like L.A., one would expect the city's black and Latino political communities to have clashed more frequently than they have.

Liberalism may be their common ideology, but the economic interests of the black and Latino working classes have at times come into conflict as the Latino presence in the city grew. For example, Latinos have largely taken the janitorial and hotel jobs that blacks held 25 years ago. In the poorest quadrants of the city, violence between black and Latino gangs rages.

And yet L.A.'s black and Latino political elites have tended to avoid conflict more often than not. In the 2005 mayoral election, for example, both groups largely upported the candidacy of Antonio Villaraigosa. Multiracial coalitions have been, if not the norm, at least frequent in city politics — surprisingly frequent. Generally, as once heavily black parts of the city have become plurality or majority Latino, the elites have worked together to limit the possibility of Latino candidates winning elections in districts historically represented by blacks.

Polls are open all day. Will update as soon as results are available.

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