A statewide Mexican-American political organization has enlivened an otherwise routine Northeast Los Angeles Assembly race by endorsing the Peace and Freedom Party nominee against Democratic incumbent Richard Polanco.
The endorsement by the Mexican American Political Assn. of Evilina Alarcon in the 55th Assembly District race is the first by the group of a candidate running to unseat an incumbent Latino officeholder. The district includes Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Glassell Park, Pasadena and parts of Atwater.
The director of MAPA said Alarcon won the endorsement largely because she was the only candidate in the race to attend the organization's nominating convention. The organization's rules require that either candidates or their top representatives attend the convention in order to earn the group's endorsement.
Polanco's chief of staff, Sandra Chacon, said only the assemblyman could explain why he did not attend the convention. Polanco did not return phone calls from The Times.
Alarcon has been a member of MAPA for 13 years and said the endorsement represents her involvement with Mexican-Americans and the underprivileged. She has been active in the Homeless Organizing Team, the East Los Angeles Unemployed Council and Jobs With Peace.
"I think in the first place the endorsement focuses on that I am a person from the community, married to an auto worker with two children that attend an overcrowded elementary school," Alarcon said. "It also says about Polanco that regardless of your own personal views, you first have to represent people in your district."
Alarcon has never run for political office and acknowledged that she has little chance of winning against an incumbent Democrat in a district where Democratic registration outnumbers registered Peace and Freedom voters by more than 75 to 1. There is no Republican candidate running in the overwhelmingly Democratic district.
But Alarcon said the MAPA endorsement highlights real differences between Polanco and the organization. Polanco sponsored Proposition 101, an insurance initiative that MAPA opposes, and supported Gov. George Deukmejian's plan to locate a prison in East Los Angeles.
MAPA, the first and at one time the foremost political organization to represent Latino interests in California, has seen its power erode in the last decade as Latino organizations with widely divergent views have proliferated throughout the state. The group's endorsement may not carry with it the Latino vote in the district.
Still, most candidates running in local political races attended the convention. Of 23 candidates invited, 19 appeared at the Oct. 9 meeting, including aides to Rep. Matthew Martinez (D-La Puente) and state Sen. Estaban Torres (D-Los Angeles).
Polanco first came into office in a special election to fill the unexpired term of Richard Alatorre in 1986. Alatorre endorsed Polanco for the seat after resigning to take a seat in the Los Angeles City Council.
In a special election, Polanco was forced into a June runoff, which he won, along with the Democratic primary held on the same day. He then won the November general election.