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Bell mayor: Too much work still to do, drops from Assembly race

March 9, 2012 |  3:21 pm

Bell Mayor Ali Saleh, who was elected in a wake of a massive public corruption case, has dropped his bid to run for state Assembly.

“I am intrigued by the idea of taking the local government reforms we are creating in Bell and instituting them statewide,” he said in a statement released Friday. “But there are simply too many goals I have yet to accomplish locally.”

However, Saleh, a Democrat, said he would raise money for a 2014 race in his district in southeast Los Angeles County.

“I am committed to reforming local government,” he said. “To do so, I will need to institute legislation in Sacramento.”

Saleh, a clothing shop owner who had little political experience before becoming mayor, was a founder of BASTA, the leading citizens group in Bell, which formed after it was revealed that city leaders were receiving some of the nation's highest salaries for their positions.

The district attorney’s office ultimately filed corruption-related charges against eight Bell officials, including six former city council members and Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo.

Saleh was elected as a reformer when the old council was swept from office in a recall election. The second-highest vote getter, he was named mayor by fellow council members.

The mayor would have faced a difficult contest if he had decided to make the race for the 63rd District seat. Assemblyman Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who currently represents Bell, is running for state Senate.

Among those considered entering the race are Paramount Councilwoman Diane Martinez, who has twice lost primary races for Assembly; Lynwood Councilwoman Maria T. Santillan-Beas; and Anthony Rendon, executive director of an early childhood education nonprofit, who has built an impressive list of endorsements.

Saleh, who took out papers to run last year, previously attacked Rendon for recently moving into the district as part of a deal with political bosses whom he contends are deciding where candidates should run.


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-- Jeff Gottlieb

Photo: Ali Saleh after being named mayor in 2011. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times