It is the holiday season and the networks will be rolling out Christmas classics soon.
Miracle on 34th Street is usually among the first to show up on our home screens. The film juxtaposes commercialism with sentimentalism, not unlike the contrasting approaches of the opposing candidates in the 39th AD.
Well, Thanksgiving and Christmas arrived a little early for the good people of the 39th Assembly District.
Almost an unknown and virtually unfunded LAUSD parent volunteer, Patty Lopez, holds what might be a safe lead with another tally of provisional and mail-in ballots scheduled for Monday. The race was one of the tightest in memory.
Her opponent, Raul Bocanegra, the incumbent for the Assembly seat, had cash to spare, even playing Santa Claus for his friends running in other races deemed to be competitive.
How Lopez put herself in a position to snatch the seat right from under him will be debated for a long time.
In my view, her victory – if it holds up – will not be a template others can easily apply successfully.
It may have been a confluence of factors – a perfect storm in an electoral sense.
Party affiliation was not a factor; both are Democrats.
Could it have been affinity?
Lopez projects a much friendlier and trusting persona. Her cultural roots probably helped – she was born in Mexico and her Spanish dialect may have been comforting to the voters in the district, which counts many immigrants from Mexico in the registration rolls.
By contrast, Bocanegra looks like he was cut in the mold of a hand-picked PRI candidate. I am not implying he follows the PRI’s lackadaisical approach to dealing with corruption, but were the voters of the 39th wary of anyone who comes across as an apparatchik of a party machine?
Bocanegra made his work on enacting credits for film production a focal point of his campaign. All well and good for the industry, but no measurable impact on the district.
Bocanegra may have been a victim of his own success in the primary where he finished 40 points ahead of Lopez. Arrogance can be a politician’s worst enemy and the incumbent most likely thought he was bulletproof as a result. Even Bob Hertzberg did not take his State Senate campaign against a financially strapped unknown lightly. Mailers, neighborhood council and HOA appearances were a staple of Big Bob’s strategy right to the end. He threw in more than a few hugs, too.
Assuming a victory is confirmed, how will Ms. Lopez be received by the Assembly’s leadership, not to mention Bocanegra’s colleagues? Will they toss her a bone, assign her to an obscure committee or one where the chair suppresses her input? After all, Lopez knocked off one of their own.
If so, the Democrats do so at their own risk. Lopez is now a very public figure in light of the publicity she has received for her improbable showing. They cannot afford to disrespect her without accusations of gender and even ethnic discrimination.
More importantly, how will Lopez deal with success?
I certainly do not see her even nudging the ideological mix of the Assembly. Will she fall prey to money from lobbyists?
Ms. Lopez would be starting off with a clean slate if the current results hold up. That’s her ace in the hole. She owes nothing to anyone except her constituents. Let’s see how she plays her hand.