Gay Assemblyman Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) confirmed today (Wednesday, October 19) that he will seek a state Senate seat next year. Should he win, Lara would be the first out person of color to serve in the Legislature’s upper chamber.
He is the second out Democratic candidate to announce a senate bid in 2012. State Senator Mark Leno will seek re-election to San Francisco’s new lone senate seat after redistricting lobbed the city into one district rather than split it into two.
Speculation that Lara would run for senate has been building since the summer. In August the Bay Area Reporter first noted that the freshman lawmaker could opt to run for the newly drawn 33rd Senate District centered in Long Beach as it runs north into his Assembly district.
He confirmed the rumors this afternoon by issuing a statement announcing his candidacy, reported the Sacramento Bee. In it Lara stated, “We face a record jobless rate with education and health care under constant threat of deeper cuts. These challenges don’t stop at some arbitrary district lines.”
His decision pits him against his colleague, two-term Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach). But Lara could have a slight edge as the senate seat as drawn is majority Latino.
It stretches inland from the port of Long Beach to the city of Vernon, includes Huntington Park, Bell Gardens and the corruption-plagued city of Bell, note the Bee.
It is unclear how Lara’s fellow LGBT lawmakers will react to his jumping into the race. Several have already endorsed Lowenthal, including Leno, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) and Assemblywoman Toni Atkins (D-San Diego).
Gay Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles), a close ally of Lara’s, had yet to endorse Lowenthal, according to a list of her backers on her campaign site. Should Perez endorse Lara it would be the polar opposite of his position in a contested race for the Assembly seat that covers West Hollywood and Santa Monica.
There, Perez helped orchestrate Assemblywoman Betsy Butler’s (D-Marina Del Rey) move into the area. One of Butler’s main opponents in the race is lesbian candidate Torie Osborn, and her supporters are infuriated with seeing Perez support Butler’s carpet-bagging into the district.
The two state legislative races are sure to be ones to watch next year.