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2009 California's 32nd congressional district special election

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

2009 California's 32nd congressional district special election

← 2008 November 3, 2009 (2009-11-03) 2010 →

California's 32nd congressional district
Judy Chu official portrait.jpg
No image.svg
No image.svg
Nominee Judy Chu Betty Chu Christopher Agrella
Party Democratic Republican Libertarian
Popular vote 16,194 8,630 1,356
Percentage 61.9 33.0 5.2


U.S. Representative before election

Hilda Solis

Elected U.S. Representative

Judy Chu

2009 California's 32nd congressional district special election was held July 14, 2009, to fill the vacancy in California's 32nd congressional district. The election was won by Democrat Judy Chu, who became the first Chinese American woman elected to serve in Congress.[1]

Background and procedures

The election resulted from Hilda Solis's resignation to become Secretary of Labor following her confirmation on February 24, 2009.[2] The election was called to fill the rest of her term, which ended on January 3, 2011.

On March 10, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called for the special primary election to be held on May 19, the same day as a statewide special election. If a candidate received the majority of votes in the primary election he or she would have been declared the winner and no runoff would have been held. Since no candidate won a majority, the candidates that won the most votes in each party appeared on the ballot for the general runoff election, held on July 14.[3]


A total of 13 candidates registered for the special election, of which only three qualified for the runoff general election. One additional candidate registered only for the general election.[4][5][6]



  • Eleanor Garcia, a write-in candidate for the general election


  • Christopher Agrella, a businessman


  • Betty Chu, a member of the Monterey Park City Council[7]
  • Teresa Hernandez, a businesswoman
  • Larry Scarborough, a write-in candidate for the primary election
  • David Truax, a businessman

Primary campaign

The campaign to replace Solis began as soon as her nomination to Obama's cabinet was announced.

State Senator (and former Majority Leader) Gloria Romero, whose 24th State Senate district overlaps the congressional district, became the first politician to express interest in running for the open seat.[8] On December 18, 2008, the day that Solis's selection first became known, Romero said, "I have deep roots, and I would certainly give it every consideration. Definitely, I am interested".[8] The same State Senate seat was previously held by Solis. Of the many possible contenders, Romero said, "I can beat them all".[9] However, on January 8, Romero decided not to run for the seat, opting to try for California State Superintendent of Public Instruction instead.[10]

On December 22, Judy Chu, Chair of the State Board of Equalization, announced that she would run in the special election.[11] She said, "I've decided to heed those calls [of supporters]. I know this district very, very well and I believe the people of this district know me and know I'm very devoted to the San Gabriel Valley".[11] The congressional district makeup was 48% Latino and 13% Asian.[11] She began campaigning heavily, and captured the endorsements of several San Gabriel Valley politicos.[12] (The following month, Chu became Vice Chair of the Board of Equalization.)[13]

On January 8, 2009, State Senator Gil Cedillo announced he was running.[14] He was endorsed by Romero once she decided not to run,[10] and the race was largely viewed as a contest between Chu and Cedillo.[12] Cedillo collected the endorsements of several local mayors.[15]

On January 7, the day before, Emanuel Pleitez, a 26-year-old member of the Barack Obama presidential transition team for the U.S. Treasury Department, had declared his intentions to run.[14][16] A young banker who left Goldman Sachs, Pleitez is a native of the district.[17] Pleitez ran a more grassroots campaign, relying on a steady flow of volunteers and various individuals making any contribution to his efforts.[17] The Huffington Post said if elected, he would become the second member of the Millennial generation to serve in Congress.[18] By late March, the Pleitez campaign had about 20 full-time staffers and many volunteers; it was also the first campaign of the 32nd Congressional district to open a campaign office, and launched a modern website before any candidate.[19]

By late January, Blanca Rubio, president of the Baldwin Park Unified School District Board of Education, also said she was running.[20] However, she was not mentioned in subsequent press reports about the election.[21] In late March, she said she was withdrawing from the race for family reasons and endorsed Chu.[22]

Others who had been mentioned as possible candidates for the seat included Assemblyman Charles M. Calderon,[11] his brothers Senator Ronald S. Calderon and former Assemblyman Thomas M. Calderon[8] (both Ronald and Thomas Calderon subsequently declined to run and endorsed Cedillo instead),[23] Assemblyman Edward Hernandez (who subsequently declined to run and endorsed Chu instead),[11][24] Chu's husband, Assemblyman Mike Eng,[9] and former Assemblyman Ed Chavez[20] (who subsequently declined to run and endorsed Cedillo instead).[22][25] Candidates from outside the congressional district were also permitted by law.[11]

No major Republicans indicated that they would run in the special election.[2] The Republican who were candidates were former Covina mayor David Truax,[26] accountant Jim Hetzel,[27] and business owner Teresa Hernandez.[28] Hetzel and Hernandez were political newcomers, and these were the first Republicans to vie for the seat since 2002.[28]

As the only Libertarian Party candidate, Christopher Agrella, a businessman, was guaranteed to move on to any general election from the primary.[29] Agrella said his top priorities if elected would be to bring about real government accountability, balance the federal budget by cutting out waste, and repeal the federal tax code in its entirety.[30]

Turnout in special elections is almost always low, and support from organized labor was seen as crucial in helping to get out a candidate's vote.[15][31] On January 26, Chu received the coveted endorsement of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.[12] Cedillo replied that he had a long association with the labor movement and that, "At the end of the day, people know me as a public servant who delivers and not as a politician."[15] Somewhat ironically, all of this campaign activity had taken place before there was any official vacancy in the seat, as Solis's confirmation process was being held up in the United States Senate.[32] Solis herself decline to endorse any of the potential replacements for her, although Chu suggested that the congresswoman would prefer her.[15]

On February 24, 2009, the special election finally became a certainty, with Solis's long confirmation process coming to a successful close.[2]

Chu formally announced her candidacy on February 27, stating, "It occurred to me this seat would open, and who could carry on ... [Solis's] desire to represent the constituents?"[21] Cedillo formally announced his candidacy on March 7 at a rally in El Monte.[33]

The first candidates' forum was held on March 19 in Cypress Park, Los Angeles, sponsored by the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project.[34] Only Cedillo, Chu, and Pleitez were invited.[34] By late March, Cedillo and Chu had each raised several hundred thousand dollars and were widely viewed as the frontrunners.[35] A fellow of the Rose Institute of State and Local Government characterized the contest by saying: "When people talk about this race, there's Cedillo and Chu, then there's Pleitez, and then there's everybody else."[36] Through the end of March, Chu had raised $770,000, Cedillo $568,000, and Pleitez $153,000.[37] One political analyst commented ruefully, "It does not take a lot of money in these low turn out races, but that doesn't mean a lot of money isn't going to be spent."[37]

By April 6, the official filing deadline for the primary, twelve candidates had filed for the race,[38] comprising eight Democrats, three Republicans, and one Libertarian.[39] Chu and Cedillo were still considered the front-runners, with each having raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for their campaigns.[40] Judy Chu's task was complicated by the appearance of her cousin-in-law,[41][42] Betty Chu, a Republican Monterey Park City Council member and former mayor, on the ballot as well.[40] Benita Duran entered the race as the last candidate for the 32nd Congressional district. She was the former deputy district director for Solis' congressional office and staged a grassroots campaign for the seat.[43]

By early May, Cedillo and Chu were battling each other via campaign mailers, with Cedillo putting out attacks on Chu that included unrelated headlines from articles about the financial crisis of 2007–2010.[44] Cedillo also put out a mailer against Pleitez that represented one of the first uses of in American politics of Facebook photographs for opposition research and negative campaigning.[45] Cedillo's material likened Pleitez's socializing to Animal House and accused Pleitez of flashing gang signs.[45] Chu had the endorsement of Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa.[46] While Solis herself continued to remain neutral, Solis's husband, parents, and siblings all endorsed Chu.[46]

Primary results

In the May 19 primary, Democrat Judy Chu led all candidates, but failed to gain enough to prevent a runoff general election. Betty Chu qualified as the Republican candidate for the runoff and Christopher Agrella qualified as the Libertarian.[47]

California's 32nd congressional district special primary, 2009[47]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Judy Chu 17,661 32.6
Democratic Gil Cedillo 12,570 23.2
Democratic Emanuel Pleitez 7,252 13.4
Republican Betty Chu 5,648 10.4
Republican Teresa Hernandez 4,581 8.5
Republican David Truax 3,303 6.1
Democratic Francisco Alonso 1,097 2.0
Libertarian Christopher Agrella 654 1.2
Democratic Benita Duran 659 1.2
Democratic Stefan Lysenko 246 0.4
Democratic Nick Mostert 244 0.4
Democratic Rafael Nadal 200 0.4
Republican Larry Scarborough (write-in) 1 0.0
Valid ballots 54,116 94.6
Invalid or blank votes 3,106 5.4
Total votes 57,222 100.0
Turnout   26.2

General election campaign

Not much media attention was given to the general election race due to the district's heavily Democratic lean. The San Gabriel Valley Tribune dubbed the race "The Chu Chu train" in reference to the same last names of the two major candidates,[48] while a campaign consultant referred to it as "The Chu-Chu runoff".[49] With expected turnout at the 10 percent level, one analyst dismissed the possible name confusion effect on voters: "When you’re dealing with that low of turnout, you’re dealing with a sophisticated, knowledgeable electorate."[48] Despite their relation by marriage, the two women did not know each other well nor like each other.[49] Judy May Chu accused Betty Tom Chu of dropping her middle name "Tom" in order to play further upon the name similarity, a charge that Betty Chu sternly denied.[49]

At a June 23 debate featuring the three candidates, the two Chus presented conflicting views on term limits, the Employee Free Choice Act, and universal health care.[50] Following the debate, while Betty Chu remained in the area, Judy Chu flew to Washington, D.C., to meet with Democratic leaders, indicating her confidence in winning the race.[50]

With the election looming, Judy Chu has actually downsized her headquarters, again signaling her confidence in winning the heavily democratic district. On the other side, Betty Chu opened a campaign headquarters, and Libertarian candidate Christopher Agrella operated his low-tech campaign out of a storage shed.[51] While Judy Chu was considered to be the clear front-runner, she said she was not taking anything for granted; much of her campaigning involved phone calls to voters and fundraising. Betty Chu also worked to raise funds and to get her message out, telling voters that she had a great deal of experience as a long-time attorney, banker, entrepreneur, and elected official. Agrella continued to run what he called a "shoe-string" campaign, trying to get his name known in the district.[51]

A forum, sponsored by the American Legion, was held between Betty Chu and Christopher Agrella. Judy Chu was originally scheduled to participate but dropped out to do a fundraiser.[52] Judy Chu also did not attend a forum sponsored by Looking Green, leading to the cancellation of the forum, since the remaining candidates felt it was unnecessary due to their similar positions on the issues. The Judy Chu campaign explained their reason for not attending was to spend the last days of the campaign contacting voters and making sure they show up for the election, which was expected to have low turnout.[53]

Fundraising reports indicated that Judy Chu had raised $1.3 million from individuals (constituting about three-quarters), PACs, and unions. The amount was more than expected and budgeted for the race by the campaign. The campaign indicated that $1 million was spent in the primary, and $200,000 spent in the general election.[54] Betty Chu spent around $75,000 on efforts to get her name known in the district with billboards, mailers, and TV ads. Much of the spent monies were personal loans. The Betty Chu campaign missed one filing deadline with the Federal Election Commission.[54]

With turnout expected not to be higher than 10%, or 25,000 or so votes, both Chus were working to ensure their constituents turned out on election day.[53] The general election was considered less relevant than the primary by the voters, with the Judy Chu campaign acknowledging that many of the voters they had talked to thought the primary in May was the end of the election.[53] While Judy Chu was pushing to ensure loyal Democrats come to the polls, Betty Chu worked to get Republicans, unmotivated to show up by the district's Democratic tilt, to flock to the polls and perhaps pull off a long-shot upset. Over 10,000 absentee ballots were filed, with about half from Democrats, a third from Republicans, and the remaining from unaffiliated voters.[53]

General election results

2009 California's 32nd congressional district special election[55]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Judy Chu 16,194 61.8
Republican Betty Chu 8,630 33.0
Libertarian Christopher Agrella 1,356 5.2
Independent Eleanor Garcia (write-in) 2 0.0
Valid ballots 26,182 100.0
Invalid or blank votes 1,240 4.7
Total votes 26,182 100.0
Turnout   10.7
Democratic hold


  1. ^ "Judy Chu shoots past rivals in congressional race". Los Angeles Times. July 14, 2009. Retrieved July 14, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c Demirjian, Karoun (February 24, 2009). "Senate Confirms Solis as Labor Secretary Despite GOP Concerns". Congressional Quarterly. Archived from the original on February 24, 2009. Retrieved February 24, 2009.
  3. ^ "Special Election Proclamation". Governor of California. March 10, 2009. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
  4. ^ "Certified List of Candidates for the Special Primary Election Thirty-Second Congressional District May 19, 2009" (PDF). California Secretary of State. April 13, 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 19, 2009. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
  5. ^ "Certified List of Write-In Candidates for the Special Primary Election Thirty-Second Congressional District May 19, 2009" (PDF). California Secretary of State. April 13, 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 19, 2009. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
  6. ^ "Certified List of Write-In Candidates for the Special General Election Thirty-Second Congressional District July 14, 2009" (PDF). California Secretary of State. July 6, 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 9, 2009. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
  7. ^ a b c "Election at a glance". Los Angeles Times. May 18, 2009. Archived from the original on September 22, 2009. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
  8. ^ a b c Morain, Dan (December 18, 2008). "Obama's pick of Hilda Solis for Labor prompts some to eye her House seat". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 19, 2008.
  9. ^ a b Rojas, Aurelio (December 19, 2008). "Legislators scramble to fill congressional seat". The Sacramento Bee. Archived from the original on September 25, 2009. Retrieved December 24, 2008.
  10. ^ a b "L.A. Now". The Los Angeles Times. January 8, 2009.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Larrubia, Evelyn (December 23, 2008). "Solis' House seat draws interest of prominent politicians". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 24, 2008.
  12. ^ a b c Larrubia, Evelyn (January 27, 2009). "Judy Chu endorsed by union in bid to replace Rep. Hilda Solis". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 29, 2009.
  13. ^ "Vice Chair Judy Chu". State Board of Equalization. Archived from the original on January 2, 2009. Retrieved March 24, 2009.
  14. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 15, 2011. Retrieved January 10, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ a b c d Larrubia, Evelyn (January 29, 2009). "L.A. County Federation of Labor endorses Chu for Congress". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 29, 2009.
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 17, 2009. Retrieved January 8, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ a b Kim, Kenneth (February 27, 2009). "Young Banker Bails on Goldman Sachs, Runs for Congress". New America Media. Archived from the original on February 22, 2012. Retrieved February 27, 2009.
  18. ^ Greenberg, Eric; Weber, Karl (March 17, 2009). "The Pleitez Promise—A Millennial Breeze Begins To Blow in Washington". The Huffington Post. Retrieved March 18, 2009.
  19. ^ Mamlyuk, Boris (March 27, 2009). "Chavez, Pleitez & the History of America's Future". The Huffington Post. Retrieved March 31, 2009.
  20. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 14, 2011. Retrieved January 27, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ a b Telford, Daniel (February 27, 2009). "Chu takes first step in run for Congress". San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Archived from the original on April 26, 2009. Retrieved February 28, 2009.
  22. ^ a b "Leftovers from City Hall: Clock is ticking on for Congressional seat race". San Gabriel Valley Tribune. March 29, 2009. Archived from the original on April 2, 2009. Retrieved March 31, 2009.
  23. ^ "Gil Cedillo for Congress - Endorsements". Archived from the original on February 26, 2009. Retrieved March 26, 2009.
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 15, 2011. Retrieved January 9, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ McLain, Jennifer (March 23, 2009). "Chavez won't run; supports Cedillo". San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
  26. ^ "David Truax for Congress". Retrieved March 16, 2009.
  27. ^ "James Hetzel for Congress". Archived from the original on June 7, 2013. Retrieved March 16, 2009.
  28. ^ a b Kimitch, Rebecca (February 28, 2009). "Candidates set sights on Solis seat". San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Archived from the original on March 3, 2009. Retrieved March 5, 2009.
  29. ^ Kimitch, Rebecca (April 13, 2009). "Candidates crowd race for 32nd District seat". Pasadena Star-News.
  30. ^ Archived April 12, 2009, at the Wayback Machine [date:4/21/2009]
  31. ^ York, Anthony (January 22, 2009). "Private, political histories loom over House race". Capitol Weekly. Archived from the original on July 17, 2011. Retrieved January 24, 2009.
  32. ^ Friedman, Dan (January 23, 2009). "Solis becomes latest nominee slowed by GOP roadblocks". CongressDaily. Archived from the original on January 29, 2009. Retrieved January 23, 2009.
  33. ^ Kimitch, Rebecca (March 9, 2009). "Democrat Cedillo kicks off congressional campaign". San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Archived from the original on March 12, 2009. Retrieved March 21, 2009.
  34. ^ a b Gloria Angelina Castillo (March 26, 2009). "Race for Solis' Seat Picks Up Speed". EGP News. Retrieved March 27, 2009.[permanent dead link]
  35. ^ Jacobs, Jeremy (March 19, 2009). "In race for Solis's seat, Democratic Party may prove to be powerbroker". The Hill.
  36. ^ Rebecca Kimitch; Tania Chatila (March 15, 2009). "Pleitez says financial experience, background qualify him for Congressional seat". San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Archived from the original on June 14, 2011. Retrieved March 26, 2009.
  37. ^ a b "32nd Congressional District fundraising going strong". San Gabriel Valley Tribune. April 15, 2009. Archived from the original on June 14, 2011. Retrieved April 20, 2009.
  38. ^ Kimitch, Rebecca (April 7, 2009). "12 file for Solis' congressional seat". San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Archived from the original on July 10, 2009. Retrieved April 16, 2009.
  39. ^ Mikulan, Steven (April 7, 2009). "The Race for Hilda Solis' Seat: Let the Bloodbath Begin". LA Weekly. Archived from the original on April 15, 2009. Retrieved April 16, 2009.
  40. ^ a b Jacobs, Jeremy P. (April 10, 2009). "Candidate for Solis seat gets similar challenger". The Hill. Retrieved April 17, 2009.
  41. ^ 兩位「趙美人」角逐加州眾議員 (in Chinese). May 20, 2009. Archived from the original on May 31, 2009. Retrieved May 21, 2009.
  42. ^ "Betty Chu and Judy Chu: the final word!". May 20, 2009. Retrieved May 21, 2009.
  43. ^
  44. ^ Merl, Jean (May 2, 2009). "Democrats battle by mailer in 32nd District race". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 8, 2009.
  45. ^ a b Blake, Aaron (May 7, 2009). "Facebook photos used as opposition research". The Hill. Archived from the original on July 24, 2009. Retrieved May 8, 2009.
  46. ^ a b Blood, Michael R. (May 9, 2009). "Racial lines tested in Calif. House race". San Francisco Chronicle. Associated Press. Retrieved May 10, 2009.[dead link]
  47. ^ a b "Statement of Vote: May 19, 2009, Statewide Special Election" (PDF). California Secretary of State. June 26, 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 16, 2009. Retrieved June 26, 2009.
  48. ^ a b Abrahamson, Zachary (June 4, 2009). "Two Chus, one ballot". The Politico. Retrieved June 14, 2009.
  49. ^ a b c Hall, Carla (May 21, 2009). "Two Chus among candidates for San Gabriel Valley seat". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 14, 2009.
  50. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 14, 2011. Retrieved June 25, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  51. ^ a b Merl, Jean (June 22, 2009). "Candidates for San Gabriel Valley seat aren't backing down". Los Angeles Times.
  52. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 14, 2011. Retrieved July 12, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  53. ^ a b c d "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 24, 2011. Retrieved July 13, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  54. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 10, 2009. Retrieved July 12, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  55. ^ 2009 special election results

External links

Campaign websites of run-off candidates

Former candidates

This page was last edited on 15 November 2020, at 03:25
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