Fanning the flames of her underdog campaign, Monterey Park Mayor Judy Chu has intensified her attack on Assemblywoman Diane Martinez, calling her an ineffective legislator who cannot get bills passed or even hold on to her staff.
Martinez (D-Monterey Park) gave Chu new ammunition when she brought up one of her most closely watched bills for a vote last week--only to have it fall one vote short of passage. The bill would have helped clear the way for Caltrans to extend the Long Beach (710) Freeway through South Pasadena without approval of the city, which is a vehement opponent of the extension.
Martinez's 49th District includes parts of Alhambra, which strongly supports the extension, as well as portions of Monterey Park, San Gabriel, Rosemead, Temple City, El Monte, Los Angeles and unincorporated East Los Angeles.
Just days before the freeway vote, three members of Martinez's six-person Sacramento staff left her office for reasons that are unclear. Two of the employees, an analyst and a secretary, apparently left on bad terms after a fierce argument with the assemblywoman, sources said.
"She is ineffective in Sacramento," Chu said in a recent interview. "She can't even keep her staff. How can you operate your office with that kind of turnover?"
Martinez denied there was a staff blowup, saying the analyst left of her own accord and the secretary left to seek lighter duty because of her pregnancy.
The husband of Danielle Woern, who is pregnant and one of the employees who reportedly argued with Martinez, answered a phone call from The Times but would not allow his wife to comment.
The analyst, Linda Joplin, could not be reached for comment.
The assemblywoman also downplayed the importance of the vote on the 710 extension.
"I think the votes are there," said Martinez, who has scheduled the bill for reconsideration. "I don't intend to lose this bill." Then Martinez fired back at Chu.
"She's always set on the track of deliberately skewing information," Martinez said. "She has people here and there and everywhere trying to spread rumors."
The Martinez/Chu race is drawing particular interest because it pits a Latina incumbent, who has the blessing of Democratic leaders, against a well-financed Chinese American candidate.
But Chu, a college psychology professor, is fighting an uphill battle against Martinez, a freshman assemblywoman and the daughter of Rep. Matthew G. Martinez (D-Monterey Park).
The district is considered one of the best for Asian candidates because of its growing Asian population. But Latinos still account for about 55% of the population; Asians make up 29%--a clear advantage for the incumbent.
A third candidate, Roy T. Torres, is running for election in the June 7 Democratic primary, but his campaign is under-funded and his chances are seen as poor.
Libertarian Kim Goldsworthy also is seeking the seat.
In area races for state Senate, the Democratic primary in the 24th District is drawing the most interest.
Assemblywoman Hilda L. Solis (D-El Monte) wants to move to the upper house, but first she must defeat former Azusa Mayor Eugene F. Moses.
The seat was created through reapportionment in 1992 and approximates the old seat held by Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles), who is running for state Insurance Commissioner. The 24th District includes all or part of Alhambra, Arcadia, Azusa, Baldwin Park, El Monte, Hacienda Heights, Industry, Irwindale, La Puente, Monterey Park, Rosemead, San Gabriel, West Covina and La Habra.
Moses, 60, has been eyeing the seat for more than a year and built up a sizable campaign war chest, raising about $70,000 through last March. Solis reported raising about $31,000 through March.
Despite having less money, Solis is viewed as the favorite by pundits because she is an incumbent, who therefore enjoys higher name recognition and has the capacity to raise more money before June 7.
Solis, 36, has won the endorsements of Latino political heavyweights such as Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina. That she is a Latina running in a district where Latinos account for 54% of registered Democrats is also to her advantage.
A third Democratic contender, Joseph R. Chavez, a data processing supervisor, said he plans to raise about $5,000 for his campaign.
Republican Dave Boyer and Libertarian George Curtis Feger face no opposition on June 7.
The winner of the Democratic primary is expected to win in November. Democrats account for 58% of the registered voters in the 24th District, compared with 29% for Republicans.
Sen. Charles M. Calderon (D-Montebello) faces no opposition in the Democratic primary to retain his 30th District seat, which represents part of South El Monte.
Two Republicans are vying for a chance to face Calderon in November--Araceli Gonzalez, a theater group manager, and Ken Gow, a retired aerospace engineer. But the two candidates admit it will be difficult to unseat Calderon in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 3 to 1.
The primaries for the Senate's 32nd District, which includes part of Pomona, are uncontested.
Three Democrats are campaigning for the Assembly's 57th District, which is being vacated by Solis. The district includes all or part of Azusa, Baldwin Park, El Monte, Glendora, Industry, Irwindale, La Puente, South El Monte, West Covina and the county areas of Bassett, Hacienda Heights and Valinda.
Martin Gallegos, a Baldwin Park councilman, and Tony Fellow, a college professor, are considered the favorites.
Gallegos, a chiropractor, has received a number of key endorsements, including that of the state Democratic Party and two area congressmen and state senators.
Fellow has the support of former Assemblywoman Sally Tanner and numerous local officials. He also has the support of the California Orthopedic Assn., an organization of surgeons who do not want to see a chiropractor in the Assembly.
The campaign took a negative turn recently when Fellow's campaign released documents showing state and federal liens against Gallegos' chiropractic clinic for failing to pay employee and income taxes.
Gallegos said that the state liens resulted from a misclassification of an employee and that the federal lien, which was imposed and cleared last month, was a result of hard financial times.
"It was a tough time, but we made it through," Gallegos said. "Being a veteran of coming out of this recession gives me more insight into what we need to do for the people of this state."
The third candidate in the Democratic primary is La Puente Councilman Charles H. (Charlie) Storing.
Republican Frank Yik and Libertarian David Carl Argall are running unopposed.
Assemblyman Paul V. Horcher (R-Diamond Bar) faces a weak challenge from mortgage broker Robert L. Smith in the Republican primary for the 60th District, all or part of Covina, Diamond Bar, Hacienda Heights, Industry, Pomona, Walnut, West Covina, La Habra Heights, La Mirada and Whittier.
Horcher is expected to easily defeat Smith, who has raised little money and lacks the endorsements of Republican leaders.
Democrat Andrew M. (Andy) Ramirez and Libertarian Michael L. Welte are running unopposed.
Strong Republican registration in the 60th District makes Horcher the favorite in November.
The primaries in the 44th, 58th, 59th and 61st Assembly districts are uncontested.