California 39th District
In the years just after World War II, much of southeast Los Angeles County was farmland—citrus groves and dairy farms. The Zamboni ice-resurfacing machine for skating rinks was invented, not in some frozen Northern clime, but by local businessmen Frank and Lawrence Zamboni, who, in 1949, found an innovative new use for the refrigeration technology they were using to service the local dairy industry. In the next two decades, housing subdivisions were built and new cities incorporated so that what had been a few towns separated by farmland became one continuous swath of suburbia. The towns were different in character. Whittier, founded by Midwestern Quakers, was the hometown of Richard Nixon, a young lawyer thinking about running for Congress in early 1946 who later became president. South Gate and Lynwood, with new auto plants and other factories, filled up with newcomers from the south. Lakewood, just north of Long Beach, used to be an area of lima bean fields. Developers built it up so rapidly in the 1950s that Life magazine featured it as one of the first mass-produced suburbs. Other towns were late-bloomers. There were still dairy farms in Cerritos in the 1970s, though few remain now.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 39th Congressional District of California is made up of a heterogeneous and oddly fashioned collection of these suburbs. It is shaped like a U. Two-thirds of Whittier, all of South and West Whittier, and La Mirada are on the east. The bottom part of the U includes Lakewood, and in former dairy country, Cerritos, Artesia, and Hawaiian Gardens. The west end includes South Gate, Lynwood, Paramount, and the eastern fringe of South Central Los Angeles. These were once working-class white communities, then mostly black, then heavily Latino. The district’s population is 65% Hispanic and 10% Asian. More evidence of the 39th’s diversity can be found at a local motor vehicles office, where the written exam can be taken in 33 languages. As this area grew in the postwar years, it was pretty closely divided between the parties. But in the 1990s, it trended Democratic. This district in its present form was created in 2001 to be a safe seat for California Democrats. On the presidential level, it voted 59%-40% for Democrat John Kerry in 2004 and 66%-32% for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008.