Rice is more explicit: "Latinos have bent over backward not to take African American districts."
Another significant player in keeping L.A. politics less racialized than they could be is the labor movement, which has been a dominant force in many L.A. district elections. Over the last decade, union leaders have compiled a remarkable track record of persuading their members to vote economics rather than race.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday July 01, 2007 Home Edition Opinion Part M Page 3 Editorial Pages Desk 1 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
L.A. politics: A June 24 Opinion article about African American and Latino political competition in Los Angeles stated that Jenny Oropeza captured the state Senate seat of term-limited Alan Lowenthal. She won the seat previously occupied by Debra Bowen.
Still, a demographic tide is a demographic tide. So it's particularly important that candidates of all races in the L.A. area have begun to win districts that aren't racially "theirs." The Assembly seat that Richardson won in November was held by Oropeza, just as the Senate seat that Oropeza captured then was occupied by the term-limited Alan Lowenthal, a white Jew. In San Bernardino in November, African American Democrat Wilmer Carter was an upset victor in an Assembly district that isn't heavily black and had been represented by a Latino.
The future political clout of the African American community may, in fact, partly depend on the ability of its candidates to win outside historically black areas because the number of predominantly black districts will continue to shrink. Carter's victory, and the early successes of the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, are provisionally hopeful signs.
As far as Rice is concerned, it's about time. "We [the African American community] have had 20 years' notice that we need to move from having our power derive from [district-based] political clout to having a more universal appeal," she says. "In more diverse districts, we should be able to play."