Gatto is Democrats' choice to replace Portantino

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) has secured the endorsement of local Democratic Party delegates for the redrawn 43rd Assembly District.

The district has been morphed to include La Cañada Flintridge, currently the home base for Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, who announced last week that will not seek another elective office when he's termed out later this year.

He had explored both a run for Congress and a challenge to state Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge), last week said he was taking a break from politics to tend his ailing mother in New Jersey.

“I'm committed to finishing out my last year in the Legislature with my political accountability agenda and serving my constituents to the best of my ability,” he said. “Once the family situation is settled, there's plenty of time to make decisions about later. But family comes first.”

And in an email to supporters, he wrote, “I hope you will understand that this decision in no way ends my political career.”

Assembly districts were redrawn by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission last year. Beginning with the 2012 election, La Cañada, including Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will be part of the new 43rd Assembly district that also includes Glendale, La Crescenta and Burbank.

Pasadena, which formerly shared a district with La Cañada, will be in the new 41st Assembly District, which stretches from Hahamongha Watershed Park to Rancho Cucamonga.

Among the nearly $1 million Portantino has in various campaign accounts is a fund for a state Senate run in 2016, when Liu herself will be forced out by term limits.

Last week, the Democrat Party of the San Fernando Valley voted to endorse Liu over Portantino for the Senate seat.

“We had all assumed he would run for Congress against [Rep.] David Dreier, but when the [district] borders changed, that opportunity went away,” said Joe Mealy, a past president of the Cañada Crescenta Democratic Club. “I think it would have been a tough battle [against Liu]. Honestly, I'm glad they won't be fighting each other, rather than the Republicans.”

Gatto, who was unchallenged, heads to the June 5 primary with a district that a higher number of registered Democrats than Republicans.

Party endorsements will become official next month during the state Democratic Party convention in San Diego.

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