Democrats hoping to succeed Miller will battle over party backing

Hoping to pick up an Inland Empire congressional district in this year's elections, Democratic campaign officials got behind Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar from the start and hoped party voters would do the same.

But the three other Democrats in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Gary Miller (R-Rancho Cucamonga) have so far refused to leave and one of them, Colton attorney Eloise Gomez Reyes, appears to be gaining momentum.

Reyes, a first-time candidate who has supported other Democratic candidates and local causes for years, recently landed endorsements from two House members — Reps. Xavier Becerra and Lucille Roybal-Allard, both Los Angeles Democrats.  She also recently won backing from former U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

Reyes also plans to vie with Aguilar for the California Democratic Party's endorsement during the state party's annual convention this weekend in Los Angeles.  At a pre-endorsement conference last month, Aguilar  won more than half the votes but fell short of the 70% needed to all but assure him  of the state party's backing in this year's election. 

Although observers deem it unlikely that Reyes could win the endorsement for herself, they say it still would be to her advantage if the state party remained neutral, denying its backing to Aguilar.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, however, which recruited Aguilar for the race, appears to remain in his corner.  Last month, it hosted a fundraiser for him in Washington.

Aguilar also has collected endorsements from a wide swath of the state's Democratic elected officials, including U.S Sen. Dianne Feinstein and 14 members of the state's congressional delegation, according to his campaign website.

The other announced Democratic candidates are former Rep. Joe Baca of Rialto and San Bernardino city school board member Danny Tillman.

After Miller announced recently that he would not seek another term, three Republicans got into the race in the increasingly Democratic 31st Congressional District.  They are businessman and military veteran Paul Chabot, former longtime Miller aide Lesli Gooch and San Bernardino City Councilman John Valdivia.

Candidates have until March 12 to qualify for the June 3 primary ballot.


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