In the California Assembly, all seven Latino Democrats won handily. In addition to incumbent Richard Polanco (45th), they are Louis Caldera (46th), Diane Martinez (49th), Escutia (50th), Hilda Solis (57th), Grace Napolitano (58th) and Joe Baca (62nd). Martinez is the daughter of Rep. Martinez.
The Latino caucus, which some are calling Los Siete (The Seven), will represent nearly 10% of the Assembly and will have about one-sixth of the votes needed for a simple majority of 41. None of three Latinos in the state Senate, Art Torres, Charles Calderon and Ruben Ayala, were up for reelection.
Although the seven Assembly members represent heavily Democratic districts, some crossover vote was evident. In Escutia's district, which is 67% Democratic, she captured 75% of the vote. "Obviously, I took in some Republican (and minor party) votes," she said.
Escutia cited Bill Clinton's presidential election and the strong overall performance by Democrats as a favorable environment in which to pursue her priorities for a district that, she said, "has the dubious distinction of having the two poorest cities in California--Bell Gardens and Cudahy."
These legislative priorities are three-pronged, said Escutia, an attorney who also is involved in charitable work. They are jobs, education and health care. She pointed out that, while these priorities are almost universal in this economy, they are especially important in her district.
Louis Caldera, a Harvard-trained attorney, captured 73% of the vote in a district that includes Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, Pico Union and parts of Koreatown and downtown Los Angeles. He said that his victory, along with those of other Latinos, will represent significantly greater political clout in the Legislature.
Latinos are likely to be "involved in every committee of the Assembly, making policy for the state," Caldera said. "We now cannot consider issues to be simply Latino issues. We will have input on every issue because Latinos are involved in every issue."
Jobs are also a high priority with educator Hilda Solis, whose district includes Baldwin Park, El Monte, La Puente and Azusa. She plans to set up councils of public- and private-sector representatives to recommend programs to expand her district's job base. Solis also plans to place a high priority on health care, in view of the aging population of her district.
Solis also said she is excited about the increasing number of Latina elected officials. Five of California's eight new legislators in the Assembly and Congress are women, a development that could enhance not only Latino causes but, more specifically, Latina women's causes.
In addition to the seven Assembly members, an eighth seat may be occupied by a Latino in the near future, resulting from a special election early next year in Central California's 31st District. Assemblyman Bruce Bronzan, who is from the Fresno area, has announced his resignation effective Dec. 23.