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Campaigning Heats Up in 49th District Primary Race : Politics: Judy Chu attacks incumbent Diane Martinez as ineffective and unable to retain staff. The freshman assemblywoman denounces the criticism as rumormongering.


Fanning the flames of her underdog campaign, Monterey Park Mayor Judy Chu has intensified her attack on Assemblywoman Diane Martinez, calling her an ineffective legislator who cannot get bills passed or even hold on to her staff.

Martinez (D-Monterey Park) gave Chu new ammunition when she brought up one of her most closely watched bills for a vote last week--only to have it fall one vote short of passage. The bill would have helped clear the way for Caltrans to extend the Long Beach (710) Freeway through South Pasadena without approval of the city, which is a vehement opponent of the extension.

Martinez's 49th District includes parts of Alhambra, which strongly supports the extension, as well as portions of Monterey Park, San Gabriel, Rosemead, Temple City, El Monte, Los Angeles and unincorporated East Los Angeles.

Just days before the freeway vote, three members of Martinez's six-person Sacramento staff left her office for reasons that are unclear. Two of the employees, an analyst and a secretary, apparently left on bad terms after a fierce argument with the assemblywoman, sources said.

"She is ineffective in Sacramento," Chu said in a recent interview. "She can't even keep her staff. How can you operate your office with that kind of turnover?"

Martinez denied there was a staff blowup, saying the analyst left of her own accord and the secretary left to seek lighter duty because of her pregnancy.

The husband of Danielle Woern, who is pregnant and one of the employees who reportedly argued with Martinez, answered a phone call from The Times but would not allow his wife to comment.

The analyst, Linda Joplin, could not be reached for comment.

The assemblywoman also downplayed the importance of the vote on the 710 extension.

"I think the votes are there," said Martinez, who has scheduled the bill for reconsideration. "I don't intend to lose this bill." Then Martinez fired back at Chu.

"She's always set on the track of deliberately skewing information," Martinez said. "She has people here and there and everywhere trying to spread rumors."

The Martinez/Chu race is drawing particular interest because it pits a Latina incumbent, who has the blessing of Democratic leaders, against a well-financed Chinese American candidate.

But Chu, a college psychology professor, is fighting an uphill battle against Martinez, a freshman assemblywoman and the daughter of Rep. Matthew G. Martinez (D-Monterey Park).

The district is considered one of the best for Asian candidates because of its growing Asian population. But Latinos still account for about 55% of the population; Asians make up 29%--a clear advantage for the incumbent.

A third candidate, Roy T. Torres, is running for election in the June 7 Democratic primary, but his campaign is under-funded and his chances are seen as poor.

Republican George H. Nirschl III is running unopposed in the GOP primary but is expected to have little chance in November; Democrats outnumber Republicans in the 49th District by more than 2 to 1.

Libertarian Kim Goldsworthy also is seeking the seat.

In area races for state Senate, the Democratic primary in the 24th District is drawing the most interest.

Assemblywoman Hilda L. Solis (D-El Monte) wants to move to the upper house, but first she must defeat former Azusa Mayor Eugene F. Moses.

The seat was created through reapportionment in 1992 and approximates the old seat held by Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles), who is running for state Insurance Commissioner. The 24th District includes all or part of Alhambra, Arcadia, Azusa, Baldwin Park, El Monte, Hacienda Heights, Industry, Irwindale, La Puente, Monterey Park, Rosemead, San Gabriel, West Covina and La Habra.

Moses, 60, has been eyeing the seat for more than a year and built up a sizable campaign war chest, raising about $70,000 through last March. Solis reported raising about $31,000 through March.

Despite having less money, Solis is viewed as the favorite by pundits because she is an incumbent, who therefore enjoys higher name recognition and has the capacity to raise more money before June 7.

Solis, 36, has won the endorsements of Latino political heavyweights such as Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina. That she is a Latina running in a district where Latinos account for 54% of registered Democrats is also to her advantage.

A third Democratic contender, Joseph R. Chavez, a data processing supervisor, said he plans to raise about $5,000 for his campaign.

Republican Dave Boyer and Libertarian George Curtis Feger face no opposition on June 7.

The winner of the Democratic primary is expected to win in November. Democrats account for 58% of the registered voters in the 24th District, compared with 29% for Republicans.

Sen. Charles M. Calderon (D-Montebello) faces no opposition in the Democratic primary to retain his 30th District seat, which represents part of South El Monte.

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