Assemblyman Tony Cardenas (D-Sylmar) said Friday he has decided to give up his candidacy for California secretary of state and instead run for the Los Angeles City Council seat being vacated in October by Joel Wachs.
He had raised $600,000 for the state race.
Cardenas announced at a breakfast with legislative and labor leaders Friday that after the exhausting budget battle that just concluded in Sacramento, he wants to stay in Los Angeles, closer to his family, and tackle more local issues.
"I had a talk with my wife and she said the kids are growing up, and if I can serve locally, I should," Cardenas said. "I decided I'm coming home."
He and his wife, Norma, have four children, ages 3 to 17.
Cardenas, 38, said he is qualified to serve as a council member because for the last five years he has represented a northeast San Fernando Valley Assembly district that includes about half of the 2nd Council District. However, he will have to move into the district to run.
FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Thursday August 9, 2001 Home Edition Part A Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
City Council--A July 28 story on Assemblyman Tony Cardenas' candidacy for City Council incorrectly stated that Michaela Alioto was the incumbent in the race for secretary of state.
"I've enjoyed representing the northeast Valley at the state level and I look forward to representing it at the local level," said Cardenas, who is chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee.
He said his campaign will emphasize the need to improve basic city services to the district, which is bordered by Studio City to the south, Van Nuys to the west and Sunland-Tujunga to the north.
"Every community needs to get its fair share of services," he said.
Shaking Up the Political Scene
Cardenas, who was prevented by term limits from seeking reelection, faced a tough contest for the state post next year, with the field for the Democratic primary expected to include incumbent Michaela Alioto, former Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi and former secretary of state March Fong Eu, who held the post for 20 years.
He said he is taking steps to close the state campaign, although some supporters have urged him to keep the funding in place in case he does not get elected to City Council on Dec. 11.
Cardenas' decision creates a new power dynamic for the San Fernando Valley political scene. He is seeking to join City Council President Alex Padilla and Mayor James Hahn, two close political allies, at City Hall.
Padilla, a Pacoima resident who started out as a field deputy for Cardenas, said Friday he is endorsing his former boss.
"We've known each other for years and he will be a great councilman," Padilla said. "He is committed to the families of the San Fernando Valley."
Cardenas also has talked to Hahn, who agreed to sit down with him in the future and talk about a possible role in the race.
Cardenas joins a small field of candidates who have already announced for the seat, including DreamWorks executive Wendy Greuel of Van Nuys, social service agency manager Lyn Shaw of the Sun Valley area, and Sun Valley businesswoman Gina Ruiz-Goldman.
However, his entry into the race may chase away some other potential candidates.
Mark Dierking, an aide to Padilla who was planning to run for Wachs' seat, said he was "taken aback" by Cardenas' decision.
"I was fully intending to run, but now I need to rethink it," Dierking said, adding that he will make a decision over the weekend. "Tony is a good friend and friendship is important to me."
Shaw said she is planning to run, but is reevaluating her campaign, because Cardenas would be a strong contender for the Democratic Party endorsements she had counted on.
"It changes the dynamics of the race," she said.
Tony Lucente, president of the Studio City Residents Assn., had decided before Cardenas' announcement not to run for the 2nd District seat, citing satisfaction with his current corporate job.
Latino Constituency May Be an Advantage
Cardenas may have the advantage of dramatic changes in the ethnic makeup of the area. About 47% of the council district's residents are Latino, while whites make up 35.4% and Asian Americans make up 9.6%, according to the 2000 Census.
Jim Hayes of Political Data Inc. said about 23% of the district's voters have Latino surnames, so Cardenas has a "realistic chance" of winning an election there.
Greuel said she is not discouraged by Cardenas' entry into the race, noting she has the advantage of having worked at the community level as an aide to the late Mayor Tom Bradley and in her present position in community relations for the DreamWorks film studio.
"The voters there want to know you are a community member and community leader who has been there," she said.
Lucente said Cardenas' need to move into the district to run might hurt him.
Cardenas cited a long list of accomplishments in the Assembly, including securing $120 million for policing in Los Angeles County, beefing up juvenile justice programs and reforming the state Lottery to make sure money goes toward classroom materials.
Legally, the City Council cannot call a special election until Wachs leaves office, but the city clerk is proposing that the council give the go-ahead for a Dec. 11 election and a March 5 runoff, if necessary.
Wachs is leaving his City Council seat to take over as head of the Andy Warhol Foundation in New York City.