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Challengers in Senate, Assembly races play catch up

Late entries by Republican candidates have made local state Senate and Assembly races competitive for Democratic incumbents.

But if money is the marker for political power, the conservatives face an uphill battle.

State Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) will face Republican Gilbert Gonzales, director of government relations for the Vons grocery chain and a Pasadena resident.

Liu, 70, has nearly $250,000 after collecting $200,000 in contributions over the past 15 months, according to the secretary of state’s office.


Liu’s supporters include law enforcement groups, Indian tribes, medical and insurance groups and real estate interests. She has also lent $100,000 to her own campaign.

Gonzales, 35, who has past ties to state Sen. Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga) and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, will start fundraising next week, he said.

Ameenah Fuller, 49, a Democratic activist from Upland also challenging Liu, has not reported raising any funds.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) and longtime Glendale Unified School District board member Greg Krikorian will square off in the 43rd Assembly District, which shifted under redistricting to fold La Cañada in with Glendale and Burbank.


Gatto has raised more than $550,000 and has $400,000 still in hand, according to records. In addition to donations from district businesses and residents, Gatto has amassed contributions from Fortune 500 companies, unions, entertainment companies and Indian tribes.

“We’re going to have to raise money to deliver our message,” said Krikorian, 49, who has name recognition among voters but is only beginning to campaign.

An executive with Business Life and Senior Living magazines, Krikorian was elected to the Glendale school board in 2001.

“Many voters know me already. Many have already elected me to serve their children,” he said.

Krikorian said he wants to reduce the size of state government and state worker pensions and wants to block unfunded mandates on schools.

Liu said her campaign has been quiet while she focuses on budget and education policy work in Sacramento.

“I’m not good at being a politician. I’m very policy-oriented and committed to making government more responsive to people’s needs,” she said.

Gatto, 37, said he understands voter frustration with Sacramento and has fought for more responsible state budgets, including requirements for “rainy day” reserves.


“It’s no secret my predecessors set things up so that the mess I inherited in 2011 was quite substantial,” said Gatto, whose campaign emphasizes job creation, support for education and environmental protection.

“People know what I’m about,” he said. “I’m focused on doing the work, and that’s what occupies my time.”