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Redlands mayor to run for Congress in 31st District

January 12, 2012 | 10:06 am

Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, a Democrat, announced his candidacy Thursday for Congress in California’s 31st District, the newly drawn San Bernardino County district currently occupied by GOP stalwart  Rep. Jerry Lewis.

Lewis is expected to announce next week whether he will retire from Congress, but Aguilar was expected to enter the race no matter what the long-time Republican congressman decided.

Aguliar said Democrats now have the upper hand in the newly crafted district, which is weighed heavily by the region’s fast-growing Latino communities in San Bernardino, Redlands, Rialto and Colton, with Latino’s accounting for 35% of voting age adults.

Democrats make up 41% of the registered voters in the newly formed district, compared to 37% Republicans.

“I’m running for Congress because the Inland Empire needs a representative in Washington who will reach across party lines to create jobs, protect vital programs and improve infrastructure,” Aguilar said in a statement released Thursday morning.

Aguilar has served on the Redlands City Council since 2006.

Like many cities in the Inland Empire, Redlands has struggled with budget deficits for years and has been forced to lay off city workers, issues likely to provide campaign fodder for Aguilar’s challengers.

If Lewis decides not to run, or opts to run in the more GOP-friendly 8th District that includes the high desert and a slice of Redlands, a number of well-known Republicans may jump into the race for the 31st District.

Among those who have expressed interest are San Bernardino County Dist. Atty. Michael Ramos and state Sen. Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga).

The district could also be an attractive seat for Rep. Gary Miller of Diamond Bar who, because of redistricting, has been squeezed into a battle against fellow Republican Rep. Ed Royce. Miller also has a formidable campaign fund of $1 million as of September.

Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas), who also finds himself in a less-friendly new district, could also consider jumping into the race.

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-- Phil Willon in Riverside

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