An El Monte city councilman and former aide to County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich is wading into the race to replace termed-out Supervisor Gloria Molina, challenging former congresswoman and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.
Juventino "J" Gomez has filed the required paperwork to begin fund-raising and said Wednesday that he will run for the seat. His official announcement is expected Thursday.
Gomez, an El Monte councilman since 2003, worked for Los Angeles County for 38 years, first in the human resources department and then for 12 years as a senior deputy to Antonovich. He retired in 2010. He grew up the son of immigrants in northeast Los Angeles and served in the U.S. Army from 1965 to 1967.
He touted his inside knowledge of the massive county bureaucracy; the county runs 37 departments with a nearly $25-billion budget, and each of the five supervisors represents about 2 million people.
"This is not a job where you sit there," he said. "You have to roll up your sleeves and work."
He said he would focus on jobs, public safety and finding ways to streamline "top-heavy" department bureaucracies.
Gomez said his connections with local elected officials, business and veterans groups, and his decades working for the county will help him garner support. He also has the backing of his former boss, Antonovich, who told The Times he would help Gomez in his campaign.
"He would make an excellent supervisor because of his vast experience and integrity and leadership," Antonovich said.
Until now, Solis — who stepped down from the Cabinet post last year — appeared to have cleared the field of serious challengers. She has picked up endorsements from powerful labor groups, including Service Employees International Union Local 721, which represents about 55,000 county employees.
Gomez is a registered Republican running in a heavily Democratic district. Fernando J. Guerra, director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University, said that will not necessarily hurt him in a local nonpartisan office, where Republicans are generally overrepresented compared to the voting population.
The greater hurdle, he said, will be Solis' name recognition and fund-raising ability.
Guerra said that he expects Solis to win unless she makes a major stumble, but that Gomez's entry adds competition to the race.
"Nobody should be able to walk into a seat," he said.
Political newcomer April Saucedo Hood, a police officer and Pico Rivera resident, is also running.