Emily's List, a nationally prominent backer of female Democratic candidates, is endorsing attorney Nanette Barragan for an open Los Angeles area House seat, giving the relatively unknown candidate a potential boost in credibility and fundraising.
The endorsement, announced Friday morning in Washington, provides another indication that the race to succeed Rep. Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro) in next year's election is likely to spark a hard-fought brawl between members of the same party that will last right up through the 2016 general election.
Barragan "has dedicated her career to public service...and has fought to give women and families a fair shot," Emily's List said in a lengthy statement announcing its endorsement. It also talked about her growing up as the youngest of 11 children of working-class Mexican immigrants and how she worked her way through UCLA, then law school at USC.
In getting into the race last spring, Barragan, 38, challenged the early favorite, state Sen. Isadore Hall (D-Compton). Hall, 43, who announced he would run for the seat as soon as Hahn said she would step aside to seek election next year to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, had already had locked up scores of endorsements from local leaders, including Hahn.
And last month Hall scored the backing of the National Organization for Women, which called him "a longtime friend and feminist" with an "unyielding commitment to fighting for women's equality, gender and social justice."
Signaling her seriousness about the race, Barragan hired a respected campaign team, raised nearly $165,000 between April and June, and announced that she would resign her seat on the Hermosa Beach City Council to move back into the congressional district, where she was raised.
The Hall camp has taken shots at Barragan's decision to leave the council after serving since just 2013. Because of the timing, the City Council must either appoint a successor or spend money on a special election.
Hall's backers also indicated they will try to make an issue of Barragan's changing her mind about when she would step down. She recently announced she would delay her resignation so she could vote on a proposal to ban plastic bags.
The largely working-class district stretches north from San Pedro and Wilmington, through Compton, Willowbrook and Carson, to South Gate and Walnut Park. Barragan is counting on mobilizing Latinos, who make up nearly 70% of the population and 48% of those registered to vote, according to the nonpartisan California Target Book, which tracks elections.
Several others have launched campaigns in the solidly Democratic district. They include criminal defense attorney Marcus Musante and novelist and former legislative aide William "Bill" Orton, both Democrats, and Republican poltical consultant Christopher Castillo.
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