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Some Democrats win a nearly clear path to state party backing

January 23, 2012 |  4:34 pm

Some Democrats in intraparty fights for seats in Congress or the Legislature this year got a boost from local “pre-endorsement” conferences over the weekend that help position them for advantage in competing for the California Democratic Party’s endorsement.

The biggest winners in the conferences were those who got at least 70% of the vote in their respective conferences — including Rep. Janice Hahn of San Pedro, who is competing with Rep. Laura Richardson of Long Beach for the newly drawn 44th Congressional District seat in southeast Los Angeles County.

Other area Democratic congressional candidates in competitive races who reached or surpassed that threshold were Rep. Linda Sanchez of Lakewood, who is vying with state Sen. Ron Calderon of Montebello for the newly drawn 38th District  in the San Gabriel Valley and Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett, who is running for the open 26th District seat in an area with a slight Democratic registration edge.

The rules for winning the state party’s endorsement at next month’s convention in San Diego are complicated, and the high threshold is important because it allows candidates who crossed it to be voted on via consent calendar. Candidates who received more than 50% of the pre-convention votes but less than 70% will also be considered for endorsements at the convention but face a somewhat trickier pathway.

Rep. Brad Sherman, who is competing with Rep. Howard Berman for the newly drawn 30th District in the San Fernando Valley, won 54% of the vote to Berman’s 36%.

In some intraparty battles in Assembly races, Pasadena Councilman Chris Holden, running in the newly drawn 41st District; state party official Reginald Jones-Sawyer, in a crowded contest for the the 59th District in South Los Angeles; and Montebello school board member Edwin Chau, running for the open 49th District in the San Gabriel Valley, all polled above 70%.

Winning a chance for the party endorsement at the convention were Assemblywoman Betsy Butler of Marina del Rey, who is running against community activist Torie Osborn and Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom for the newly drawn 50th District on the West Side. Others include union official Jimmy Gomez for the East Side’s 51st District and former Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez for the 57th District in eastern Los Angeles County. Among Bermudez’ competitors for the open seat is legislative aide Ian Calderon, part of a prominent San Gabriel Valley-based political family.

With the new wrinkles in this year’s elections — changed political districts and a “top two” primary system that is likely to pit two competitors from the same party against each other in several general election contests — the party’s endorsement could be crucial. The party can provide financial and other campaign support to its chosen candidates, and those candidates can claim party backing in intraparty fall elections, which could be key in strongly Democratic districts.

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--Jean Merl

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