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Who'll Be the Latino Supervisor?

January 13, 1991| Political Forecast interviews were conducted by Jeff Levin, who has worked in government in New York, Washington and Los Angeles

Who's going to be the new supervisor from the newly created 1st District and why? The Times asked seven political scientists, officeholders--former and current--and community activists.

David R. Ayon,political-science professor at Occidental College:

A win by either Charles Calderon or Sarah Flores would be a serious loss for Latino politics. They would probably sit on the Board of Supervisors into the next century, blocking that key potential route to Latino political advancement. They have the biggest bases of support in the vote-rich cities of the San Gabriel Valley.

Art Torres is the standout in the candidate forums. Should his personal strengths pull this one out for him, he would . . . once again position himself for a future bid for statewide office. But Gloria Molina's huge lead in absentee votes and her get-out-the-vote operation will be hard to overcome. A Molina victory would boost the credibility of labor-intensive field operations and prove her capable of a bid for mayor of Los Angeles.

Antonio H. Rodriguez,attorney and community activist:

In the rare situation in which the best person for the job actually put together the best overall campaign, Torres will win by a close margin. With the candidates concentrating on absentee voters, the absentee-voter results will not be decisive. Torres will win as a result of the votes cast Sept. 22.

Why?

Torres built the only visible, effective, day-to-day public and media campaign and took to the voters, regardless of their ethnicity, gender and geography, his impressive track record as a legislator on the crucial quality-of-life issues--the environment, crime, child care and labor-management relations.

Sally Tanner,member of the California Assembly (D-El Monte):

State Sen. Calderon will be the new representative from the 1st District.

He best represents the area covered by the district. He lives and works in the San Gabriel Valley and has represented its constituency as an assemblyman and senator for many years. He knows what the people care about, and will ensure that we don't play second fiddle to more powerful or affluent parts of Los Angeles County.

Judy Chu,mayor of Monterey Park:

Torres will win in a close race. I hope there will not be a runoff, but if there is, he will win. Torres has the most legislative experience of all the candidates. He has a long, proven track record of support for grass-roots issues--he took the lead in the fight against malathion spraying. He has the strongest vision of a multiethnic community as evidenced in his leadership in investigating whether Asian Americans were treated fairly in university admissions.

Robert Gouty,public-affairs consultant:

Execution of fundamentals rule in a special election. With a turnout of less than 20%, it is hard to handicap results. But the primary vote will be: Torres first, Calderon second. In the runoff, it will be Torres.

He should win for three reasons: his articulation of the issues and his electability; sound implementation of strategy by a good consultant, and heavyweight endorsements.

Richard Martinez,executive director, Southwest Voter Registration Education Project:

The election is too close and too competitive to call. But there will be a runoff. The reason is that the new district combines two politically distinct communities--East-Central Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley communities. Each has its own political history and voting patterns. Also, this will be the first supervisorial election in which neither incumbent nor political brokers will decide. This will be an election by the people.

Lily Lee Chen,former mayor, Monterey Park, and president, Chinese American Political Action Committee:

I've known Torres for more than 10 years. His knowledge, experience, compassion, and ability to articulate the issues--from education to the environment--combine to make him the strongest candidate.

As a human-services administrator, I know he has the best command of health and human-services issues. I also know he will reach into and give voice to all the diverse communities of the district--just as he had done so well with the Asian and Pacific Islander community.

If only a fraction of the many believers he has touched over the years turn out at the polls, he will win--by a healthy margin.

Fernando J. Guerra,chairman of Chicano Studies and associate professor of political science, Loyola Marymount University :

There will be a runoff, with no candidate receiving 30% of the vote in the primary. The runoff will take on a totally different dynamic than what we have seen so far.

While all four candidates have their strengths, Calderon has the greatest potential to surprise . . . . More voters in the district have at one time voted for him than any of the other three candidates.

Flores, the only registered Republican . . . can pull in registered Republicans and thus do well in the primary. Molina has a knack for winning tough races. . . . She has a good organization, is well thought of by community activists and has been responsive to community issues. Torres can match Molina in dynamism, organization and issues. In addition, he has represented more of the district. He also has been a focal point of the maturing Latino political process, the one who was expected to go on to higher political office.

With Molina and Torres cutting into each other's base of support, it is difficult to see both going on to the runoff. In the end, it will be either Molina or Torres.

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