With only five days left before the June 3 election, former U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis faced off for the first time Thursday with one of her opponents in the race to succeed Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina.
Three candidates are vying for the seat Molina is vacating due to term limits. They include Solis, who has a strong lead in fundraising and endorsements; Juventino “J” Gomez, an El Monte city councilman and former aide to Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich; and school police officer April Saucedo Hood.
FOR THE RECORD
An earlier version of this post said the San Gabriel Valley does not currently have a trauma center. It does; Gomez said he would like the county to look again at bringing one to the eastern part of the region.
Solis and Gomez appeared side by side at a lunch forum in Pomona put on by a group of San Gabriel Valley business and civic organizations and the local water authority. It was attended by about 130 local businesspeople, activists and elected officials.
The candidates fielded prescreened questions and were warned prior to the forum not to engage in personal attacks.
Solis and Gomez both highlighted their histories in the San Gabriel Valley and promised to advocate for a region that Gomez described as the county’s “stepchild.”
Both said they would make it a priority to complete the extension of the Gold Line train from Sierra Madre to the Ontario Airport. And both voiced support for a proposal by U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) to designate the San Gabriel mountains and river corridor as a National Recreation Area.
Gomez said he also wants the county to look again at bringing a trauma center to the eastern San Gabriel Valley, which currently does not have one.
The candidates touted their plans to bring jobs to the area. Solis said she would make getting people back to work her “No. 1 priority,” pledging to focus on strengthening job training programs and creating industry centers like a proposed biomedical corridor near L.A. County-USC Medical Center. Gomez promised to streamline county processes for dealing with businesses and developments.
On issues of public safety, Gomez promised a tough-on-crime approach: “I’m going to elevate the level of safety and protection in your community .... It has to be a safer place to work and play.”
Solis pointed out that crime rates have dropped substantially in the 1st District under Molina’s tenure, and said she wanted to see more resources devoted to community drug and mental health treatment programs and “making sure we don’t spend an inordinate amount of money just putting people in cells."
Saucedo Hood declined to join them, saying she had a scheduling conflict. She also criticized the organizers for charging admission to the event -- tickets to the lunch forum were $30. Gabriel Monares, one of the event organizers, said they had only charged as much as needed to cover the costs of the event.
The race for Molina’s seat, where Solis largely cleared the field more than a year before the election, stands in contrast to the hotly contested race for Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s 3rd District seat representing West Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, where eight candidates are running and more than 20 debates have been held.