Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Bell: Rookie mayor takes out papers to run for Assembly

December 22, 2011 |  7:03 pm

The rookie mayor of Bell, swept into office as a reformer during the midst of the city’s massive corruption scandal, has taken out papers to run for the state Assembly in southeast Los Angeles County.

Ali Saleh, a clothing shop owner with little experience in politics, became one of the faces of community discontent in Bell after The Times revealed that city leaders were paying themselves enormous salaries, taking generous benefits and loaning the town’s money to City Hall colleagues.

Saleh, however, said he would not decide whether to enter the 63rd Assembly District primary until February.

He said several people had encouraged him to enter the race, so he set up a campaign committee to accept donations. He said he had received “a few thousand dollars.”

“I’m torn between running for Assembly or staying with Bell, but I can do more for the city of Bell as an assemblyman than being on the council,” said Saleh, a Democrat.

With redistricting, the 63rd District is an open seat. Assemblyman Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who now represents Bell, is running for state Senate.

Still, Saleh could have a difficult road if he decides to jump in the race.

Those who already have filed papers indicating their interest include Paramount Councilwoman Diane Martinez, who has twice lost primary races for the Assembly, Lynwood Councilwoman Maria T. Santillan-Beas, and Anthony Rendon, executive director of an early childhood education nonprofit, who has racked up a large list of endorsements as well as about $185,000 in campaign funds.

Saleh attacked Rendon as having recently moved into the area as part of a deal with political bosses who he contends are pulling the strings on where candidates should run.

“There should be somebody from the district or at least somebody who has lived there a few years,” said Saleh, who for years has lived in a Lebanese enclave in Bell.

Rendon said that redistricting has changed the boundaries of all the districts and that for the last 20 years he has worked in nonprofit agencies that have served southeast L.A..

When the Bell scandal broke in the summer of 2010, Saleh became a founding member of BASTA, which led the opposition to the city’s public officials, eight of whom, led by then-Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo, face criminal corruption charges.

Saleh was the highest vote-getter when he was elected to Bell’s City Council in March as the old council members were swept from office. His fellow council members elected him mayor.

Things had changed dramatically for Saleh since his previous run for council when he received only 375 votes, finishing fifth out of six candidates.

Political consultant Leo Briones said Saleh will need to raise $200,000 to $350,000.

“His message would be kind of like, we cleaned up Bell, it’s time to clean up Sacramento,” Briones said.

Bell Vice Mayor Danny Harber said he thought there could be some disgruntled voters in the city if Saleh ran for higher office so soon.

But, Harber said, he could probably do more for Bell in Sacramento.

Barry Bonds appeals obstruction conviction

Death of 7-year-old boy who fell off Tahoe ski lift probed

Woman caught allegedly trying to smuggle shark fins into U.S.

-- Jeff Gottlieb

Photo: Ali Saleh is selected mayor of troubled Bell. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times