Chu Tops Field in Special Election to Replace Solis

Posted May 20, 2009 at 7:00am

Los Angeles-area voters handed State Board of Equalization Vice Chairwoman Judy Chu (D) a ticket to Congress on Tuesday, as Chu topped a crowded field in the special election to replace former Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.).Because she did not exceed 50 percent of the vote, Chu must still go through the formality of a special general election on July 14 before she can assume Solis’ seat. But in an overwhelmingly Democratic district, Chu will be the heavy favorite over Monterey Park Councilwoman Betty Tom Chu (R) and a Libertarian candidate.“I am so happy and overwhelmed by the great results,— Judy Chu told supporters early Wednesday morning, according to media accounts.The Democrat took 32 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s all-party primary. Her closest rival, state Sen. Gil Cedillo (D), won 23 percent. Emanuel Pleitez (D), a 26-year-old financial analyst who waged an aggressive grass-roots campaign, finished with 14 percent.Turnout was about 20 percent in the largely working-class district that takes in several suburbs just east of Los Angeles.Despite their similarities in age, experience and political viewpoints, Chu and Cedillo waged an increasingly nasty and expensive campaign against one another. When the final figures are in, Chu’s spending on the special primary is expected to top $1 million and Cedillo’s could near $900,000.Although the 32nd district is heavily Hispanic, Chu, who has served the area in the state Assembly and as mayor of Monterey Park, was able to put together a solid multiethnic coalition, aided by endorsements from the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and the California Democratic Party.Although the Congressional Hispanic Caucus endorsed Cedillo — and must now contemplate the loss of a House seat — Chu won the backing of prominent Latinos like Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Dolores Huerta, the co-founder of the United Farm Workers union. Ironically, Judy Chu’s turnout operation may have benefited her general election opponent. Betty Chu was the highest-finishing Republican, taking 10 percent of the vote. Restaurateur Theresa Hernandez, who invested $100,000 of her own money in the race, was thought to be the GOP frontrunner, but she finished with 9 percent.