A fourth-generation rice farmer who often wears a cowboy hat around the Capitol, La Malfa is airing a radio ad to counter the attacks. The spot points out that one of the clubs spending money against him is the Hustler Casino, a card parlor in Gardena owned by Hustler magazine's Larry Flynt.
"If I have Larry Flynt as an opponent, I must be doing the right thing," La Malfa said, adding that he cast a "principled vote" against the card room bill.
Neither Chu nor La Malfa is in much danger of losing. Each won 67% of the vote two years ago. Chu's district is so heavily Democratic that her opponent, Republican Sandra Needs of Alhambra, said it would take a "perfect storm" for her to defeat Chu.
Needs said she was "blown away" to learn from a Times reporter that the card rooms had spent $12,650 on a mailer to help her campaign. The expenditure equals the entire amount Needs has raised for her campaign.
The legislation at issue cleared the state Senate but ran into trouble in the Assembly. As lobbyists for the tribes worked to kill the measure, Chu, chairwoman of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, denounced it. She said it would permit card room owners to amass wealth and "lead to expansion of gambling."
After Chu's speech, no other legislator made the parliamentary gesture required to put the bill to a vote, and the measure died.
The card rooms attack Chu in their mailer for what they say is her support of gambling. The piece charges that "Indian casinos hit the jackpot with Judy Chu." Chu, however, has taken relatively modest donations from tribes -- $5,500 since 2001, her first year in office.
"It is an affront to us as legislators for doing what we think is right," Chu said.
She says she won't change her vote. But she worries that the attack could influence other lawmakers.
"If they think they are in danger," she said, "they might conform their votes."