Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod’s announcement Tuesday that she won’t seek reelection to her Inland Empire seat is likely to set up yet another internecine fight in a state that already has many.
The Chino Democrat will leave Washington after just one term and run instead for a seat on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, opening the door to others of her party, who might not have challenged her. Those could include the congressman she defeated in 2012, Joe Baca.
Because of that, her choice also has the potential to shake up the field in the race for a neighboring congressional seat, where Baca is one of four Democrats vying to replace retiring Rep. Gary Miller (R-Rancho Cucamonga). Baca told The Times he is running for the Miller seat but keeping his options open.
In a remark that recalled the bitterness of their fight for the seat two years ago, Baca on Tuesday referred to Negrete McLeod as “some bimbo” during an interview with the Hill, a Capitol newspaper. Another news outlet reported later in the day that he had apologized.
In a statement issued by her office Tuesday morning, Negrete McLeod said her “heart is here in the district.”
After agonizing over whether to run for reelection or go for the board of supervisors, “my desire to represent this community locally, where I have lived for more than 40 years, and where I have long served as an elected official, won out,” the former state legislator said.
Negrete McLeod, 72, becomes the sixth member of the California House delegation to announce plans to step down when the year ends. In addition to Miller, the others are Democrats Henry A. Waxman of Beverly Hills and George Miller of Martinez and Republicans Howard “Buck” McKeon of Santa Clarita and John Campbell of Irvine.
California’s revamped primary system, which has all candidates on the same ballot regardless of party, helped Negrete McLeod win her seat two years ago and will fuel contests between members of the same party again this year.
In 2012, with the first- and second-place primary finishers advancing to the general election, there were 30 fall contests between members of the same party. Several already are shaping up this year.
Campbell’s strongly Republican Orange County district has drawn three GOP candidates, for example. In the Bay Area, Democratic Reps. Eric Swalwell of Dublin and Michael M. Honda of San Jose are facing vigorous challenges from within their party.
Negrete McLeod did not appear to be drawing any serious challenges to her reelection, but now the seat will attract a lot of interest, said UC Riverside political scientist Shaun Bowler.
“It’s a very winnable seat” for Democrats, Bowler said. But he cautioned that too many of them in the race could splinter the vote and leave none a winner.
That’s what happened in a nearby district in 2012: Four Democrats shared the primary vote, enabling the two Republicans in the contest to advance to the fall ballot. Miller was one of them, winning the seat in the increasingly Democratic district, the 31st.
Before his retirement announcement last week, many observers had thought he was going to have trouble holding on to the seat.
In Negrete McLeod’s district, Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2 to 1. When voting districts were redrawn in 2011, her 35th District was put together from pieces of four old districts, including Baca’s.
Negrete McLeod, who at the time was serving her second term in the state Senate, faced Baca in the November 2012 election. Although Baca outspent her, then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican, spent more than $3 million to help Negrete McLeod because he disliked Baca’s opposition to gun control.