Rep. Judy Chu (D)
California 32nd District
Straight east from downtown Los Angeles on Interstate 10 is a string of suburbs that grew up in the 1940s and 1950s as white middle-class communities and today are a melting pot of immigrant groups that have achieved the American dream of home ownership and decent schools. The stucco houses were once filled with Midwest and East Coast migrants who discovered California during World War II. Now, they are more likely to be occupied by Mexican-American families who spread out from their original East Los Angeles base to blue-collar suburbs like El Monte, Baldwin Park, Azusa and West Covina. Chinese and other Asians are the majority in Monterey Park and 49% of the population in Rosemead. The late New York Times food maven R.W. Apple Jr. described “a memorable week in the gastronomic trenches” of the local Asian restaurant scene, and reported that “it is easier to buy bok choy than iceberg” in Monterey Park. Almost every neighborhood here is mixed, with people whose origins are in different continents and cultures. The relatively recent arrivals have upgraded neighborhoods, bringing in energy and money, the enthusiasm of the young and the community-spiritedness of the homeowner. There are busy shops with new signs, newly painted homes with carefully tended gardens, and neighborhoods filled with children. When blacks and Latinos were rioting in South Central and Hollywood in 1992, East Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley were quiet and orderly. East Los Angeles broke through into pop culture in the 1987 film Born in East L.A., about a Mexican-American deported to Mexico. Some local officials of the 129,000-population community in unincorporated Los Angeles County want to incorporate as a city, but the proposal has failed three times.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 32nd Congressional District of California covers much of this territory. It includes part of East Los Angeles and a small part of Los Angeles, most of Monterey Park and all of Rosemead, El Monte, Baldwin Park, Azusa, West Covina and Covina. It is 64% Hispanic and 21% Asian—the second-highest Asian percentage (after the adjacent 29th District) in southern California. Forty-two percent of its residents are foreign born. Politically, the new Latinos and Asians have been up for grabs. In the early 1990s, Asians, dismayed that civic leaders seemed more interested in the complaints of rioters than in compensating the store owners whose property was destroyed, moved toward the Republicans. In the middle 1990s, Latinos, because of Republican-inspired immigration and welfare laws halting aid to legal immigrants, moved heavily toward the Democrats. Republicans Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom McClintock together won nearly half of the Latino vote in the 2003 recall of Gray Davis as governor, according to exit polls. George W. Bush got 37% here in the 2004 contest for president and Schwarzenegger got 42% in 2006. In 2008, the vote for Republican presidential nominee John McCain returned to a more conventional 30%, while Democrat Barack Obama cleaned up with 68%.
Rep. Judy Chu (D)
Elected: July 2009, 1st term.
Born: July 7, 1953, Los Angeles, CA .
Home: Monterey Park, CA.
Education: U.C.L.A., B.A. 1974; M.A. 1977; Ph.D. 1979..
Religion: No religious affiliation.
Family: Married (Mike Eng); None.
Elected office: Garvey Schl. Bd., 1985-88; Monterey Park City Cncl. 1988-2001; CA Assembly, 2001-06; CA St. Bd. of Equalization, 2006-09.
Professional Career: Faculty member, Los Angeles Community College District, 1981-2001; Los Angeles City College, Psychology Dept., 1981-1988; E. Los Angeles College, Psychology Dept., 1988-2001.
The new congresswoman from the 32nd District is Democrat Judy Chu. In this left-leaning district, Chu won a competitive Democratic primary in May 2009, and then cruised to an easy win in the July 2009 special election to succeed Democrat Hilda Solis, who became President Obama’s new secretary of Labor. Chu is the second Chinese-American member of the House, after Rep. David Wu, an Oregon Democrat, and the first Chinese-American woman. She graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles, got a Ph.D. in psychology, and then taught for 13 years at East Los Angeles Community College. She served on the Garvey School District board for three years and was mayor of Monterey Park for 12 years. In 2000, she was elected to the California Assembly, where Chu focused on criminal justice and environmental protection issues. As the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, she sponsored a tax amnesty program that brought in significant sums for the state. In 2006, she was elected to the state Board of Equalization, where she worked on closing tax loopholes.
|Judy Chu (D)||16,194||(62%)|
|Betty Chu (R)||8,630||(33%)|
|Christopher M. Agrella (Lib)||1,356||(5%)|
|Judy Chu (D)||17,661||(33%)|
|Gil Cedillo (D)||12,570||(23%)|
|Emanuel Plietez (D)||7,252||(13%)|
|Betty Chu (R)||5,648||(10%)|
|Theresa Hernandez (R)||4,581||(8%)|
|David Truaux (R)||3,303||(6%)|
|Hilda Solis (D)||Unopposed||(100%)||($659,981)|
|Hilda Solis (D)||Unopposed|
After Solis’ Cabinet appointment, the contest for the Democratic nomination quickly settled into a contest between Chu and state Sen. Gil Cedillo. He was the leading Hispanic candidate after state Sen. Gloria Romero decided to focus on her 2010 bid for state schools superintendent. Although many observers viewed the election as an ethnic showdown between an Asian and a Latino, the race actually was more nuanced. Chu gained the endorsement of much of the Democratic establishment and the state party, including some prominent Hispanics, such as Los Angles Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa and members of Solis’s family. The Los Angeles County Labor Federation, which was impressed by Chu’s support for farm workers, supported her, as did EMILY’s List, the national advocacy group for pro-abortion rights Democratic women.
Cedillo attracted negative media coverage for spending more than $120,000 in campaign funds for personal travel and shopping. Cedillo maintained that he did nothing illegal, but Chu used the news stories to contrast with her more modest life style. His decade in the Legislature proved to be less of an asset than expected, given that the Democratic primary was held on the same day that voters overwhelmingly defeated five state referenda on controversial tax and spending policies. A third candidate was also an Hispanic and siphoned support from likely Cedillo voters: political novice Emanuel Pleitez, a 26-year-old financial analyst who had worked on Obama’s presidential campaign and used Internet strategies for fundraising and voter mobilization. In the pre-primary spending report, Chu had raised nearly $1 million, Cedillo more than $700,000, and Pleitez $200,000.
The May 19 primary drew fewer than 50,000 voters. Chu won with 32%, to 23% for Cedillo and 14% for Pleitez. Because she failed to receive a majority of the total primary vote, she faced a runoff with Republican Betty Chu, a Monterey Park councilwoman who is Chu’s distant cousin by marriage. Little known by most district voters, Betty Chu got 10% of the vote in the primary, edging out Republican-endorsed Teresa Hernandez who got 9%. Hispanic groups lamented the likely loss of a seat in the House. Turnout in the July 14 general election was even lighter than in the primary, attracting only 26,000 voters. Judy Chu easily bested Betty Chu by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio, 62% to 33%.