Richardson’s Rapid Rise

richardson.jpgBy Joseph Serna, Staff Writer

Dispelling concerns about her lack of experience in the state legislature and dividing the black vote between her and another candidate, Laura Richardson won the Special Election for the 37th Congressional District Tuesday, garnering 37 percent of the votes.
Because she did not receive more than 50 percent of the votes, the election will now go to a run-off on Aug. 21. Richardson’s victory is all but certain against Republican John Kanaley, lone Green Party candidate Daniel Brezenoff and Libertarian Herb Peters in the Democrat-heavy District.
Tuesday’s election was full of questions: Could the less-experienced Richardson defeat state Senator and former Assemblymember Jenny Oropeza? Could she win despite potentially dividing the black vote between herself and Valerie McDonald, handing the traditionally African-American seat to Oropeza? Would Richardson’s labor backing trump Oropeza’s backing from California’s Indian tribes?
The election gave a definitive “yes” to all those questions.
Richardson earned more than 11,000 votes, nearly 2,000 more than runner-up Oropeza. There also were not many votes to split in the first place between Richardson and McDonald, the daughter of the late Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald. Of the 265,102 registered voters in Los Angeles County, less than 30,000, or 11.18 percent cast a ballot.
McDonald came in third with roughly 9 percent of the votes.
Richardson got endorsements from labor unions early in the two-month campaign for office, and tribes threw their weight behind Oropeza for supporting proposed Indian casino pacts. In the end, reported voter turnout drives by organized labor won the day.
“I’m going to be working on behalf of the underserved,” Richardson said Tuesday night. “Those who have been discriminated against, disrespected, ignored and not really given their equal rights.”
Richardson’s comments were reminiscent of Millender-McDonald’s mission in Congress before she succumbed to colon cancer in April.
jenny-oropeza.jpg“She’ll be a strong representative, and as a Democrat she does hold core values that I hold with her,” Oropeza said in her concession speech to supporters, as the results were still coming in. “Whatever the results, you know you still have me as a public servant.”
Oropeza is still a state senator for the 28th District, which includes Long Beach.
Richardson’s term, should she win Aug. 21, ends in January 2009. The state must now prepare for a special election for her Assembly seat, likely in the fall.

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