Portantino and Robinson gear up for 2016 state Senate race

A former assemblyman and a Pasadena councilwoman have announced plans to run for a state Senate seat in the 25th district currently held by Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge).

The seat will open up in 2016 when Liu must leave office due to term limits. The district, established during last year's redistricting, includes La Cañada Flintridge, Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena.

Anthony Portantino, a Democrat, said Friday that he is getting back into politics because people in his district want him to keep pushing for transparency in government and funding for education. The La Cañada resident has been home from Sacramento for only six months.

On Tuesday, Pasadena City Councilwoman Jacque Robinson — also a Democrat — announced her bid for the seat. Robinson, a San Gabriel Valley native, said she has demonstrated during her time on the council that she can work across the aisle. She also said she helped Pasadena get through one of the worst recessions it's experienced in recent decades.

In 2011, Portantino called for the financial disclosure of elected state officials after leaders of his own party slashed his budget and ordered temporary layoffs of his office staff. Portantino said it was in retaliation for not supporting the state budget proposed by his party's leadership that year.

The furloughs were eventually lifted.

The Los Angeles Times and other newspapers filed suit to force disclosure of the financial data.

"Since I left office, so many folks have been coming up to me saying, 'We want you back in office. How can we help?'" Portantino said. "Frankly, I think that's why so many people in the foothills are supporting me.... I share the same priorities they do."

Portantino's reelection campaign held a fundraising party on Sunday at the home of Mary and Bill Urquhart. An Anthony Portantino for Senate 2016 election committee has already received $476,366 as of Dec. 31, 2012. The next filing is due at the end of this month.

Robinson is a graduate of President Obama's "Yes We Can" Hopefund training program, a weeklong campaign school Obama launched as an Illinois senator. She currently serves as vice mayor on the Pasadena City Council and is a policy director for Steve Zimmer, a Los Angeles Unified School District board member.

Robinson said there's a gender gap in Sacramento and considers being a woman an asset.

"Women tend to be coalition builders, tend to listen more and be more empathetic to the needs of their constituents," she said.

Robinson said she was aware that Portantino was running for the same seat, but has decided to launch a campaign for an election more than three years away to start fundraising early.

"It's been something that I've been thinking about and discussing with supporters," she said. "I think it's a great opportunity to look beyond Pasadena."

Robinson will also run for reelection to the Pasadena City Council in 2015. She has opened an election committee for that campaign, but has not reported any contributions. An election committee for the senate seat has not yet been initiated.

Caro Avanessian, president of the Glendale Democratic Club, said last week that it is too early for club members to decide who they would be backing, especially with rumors circulating that Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) would be making a run for the same Senate seat.

"I don't know who else is going to throw their hat in the ring," he said. "I think [Portantino] would be a fantastic candidate.... It's going to be a very difficult choice."

Gatto, who will also be termed out of office in 2016, said that with 3 1/2 years remaining until the next election for the 25th Senate district — and with him facing a reelection bid for the Assembly in 2014 — it is premature to talk about running for the Senate.

"Voters are fed up with politicians that campaign for 3 1/2 months," he said on Wednesday. "I think I speak for most people when I say that 3 1/2 years is a bit much. This is rapidly becoming a bit of an absurd arms race, and that's unfortunate."


Follow Daniel Siegal on Google+ and on Twitter: @Daniel_Siegal.

Follow Tiffany Kelly on Google+ and on Twitter: @LATiffanyKelly.


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