California Latinos scramble for historic Senate seat

California Latino leaders began a mad scramble Thursday amid an unexpected historic opportunity to possibly elect the Golden State’s first Hispanic to the U.S. Senate. That comes on the heels of Senator Barbara Boxer’s announcement that she will not seek reelection in 2016, marking the first time California has had an open Senate race since George H.W. Bush was president. SEE ALSO: Rising political stars in the Republican Party  A number of the state’s rising political stars are expected to consider running, but California’s Latino political establishment is also hoping to finally claim one of the two Senate seats for the first time in modern history. Latinos now make up the largest demographic group in California, and their political power always comes out in greatest force in presidential election years, which of course 2016 will be. By 2016 California will also have 1.35 million new Latino voters, accounting for 82 percent of the state’s growth in eligible voters. And non-Latino whites will fall below 50 percent of the state’s eligible voters in 2016, according to a new study on the demographics of California voters. “For the first time, California will have what we’re terming a ‘majority minority’ electorate,’” says Mindy Romero of the California Civic Engagement Project at UC Davis. But Boxer’s retirement – she’s 76 – now comes at a time when some in the state’s Latino leadership fear could be the worst for electing a Hispanic to statewide office. “Our bench isn’t that strong,” says Louis F. Moret, a longtime Latino political strategist and former Democratic National Committee member. “There are any number of names, but can they raise the money to run and win? I don’t think so.” The exception, say Moret and others, could be Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the great-grandson of Italian immigrants to Mexico whose great-grandfather became a judge in his adopted homeland only to be hanged in the Mexican Revolution. But three of Garcetti’s other great-grandparents were Mexicans. Through his mother Sukey Roth, he is also Jewish. “Weekends involved bowls of menudo at my grandparents’ and bagels at my cousins’ house,” Garcetti, 42, says of his childhood with a Mexican and Jewish background. “I think if you’re Latino, you’re very comfortable with the idea of mestizo, being mixed. So I kind of joke that I’m mestizo double, double mixed.” Garcetti’s biggest asset could be that double-mestizo – the Latino-Jewish political and financial alliance – that could help raise the estimated $20 million bankroll it’s expected will be necessary, at least, to wage a costly statewide campaign. However, Garcetti is not part of that traditional Latino political establishment in the state — the former office-holders, power-brokers and activists-turned-community financiers — who have long and often called the shots in California Hispanic politics since the 1970s. Nevertheless, Garcetti, the son of a former district attorney and a former Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, has become a political force of his own transcending ethnic politics. But will Garcetti run? And can other Latinos aspiring for higher office be convinced to move aside? Garcetti is also playing hard-to-get for anyone trying to woo him into the race. “I love my job and I love my city, and I am committed to the work here,” he tweeted Thursday. “I will not run for Sen. Boxer’s seat.” The state’s longtime Latino political star, former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, has indicated he would rather run for governor in 2018 and not the 2016 Senate race. Rep. Xavier Becerra, the No. 3 Democrat now in the House of Representatives, has shown an interest for the U.S. Senate seat in the past, as has Rep. Loretta Sanchez. Other major Hispanic figures who could possibly enter the race include longtime Latina trailblazer Gloria Molina, the former county supervisor and city councilwoman; Hilda Solis, the former Obama Cabinet member who last year succeeded Molina on the L.A. Board of County Supervisors; and veteran state lawmaker Alex Padilla, who Monday was sworn in as Secretary of State. Two other possibilities are California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon and former Assembly Speaker John Perez. But none of those, according to Latino political establishment leaders, are likely capable of raising the tens of millions necessary to compete against the two most formidable Democratic candidates who could enter the race — Attorney General Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. SEE ALSO: Hilda Solis’ ‘abrupt’ resignation surprises community One Latino backroom power-broker expressed frustration Thursday that there is no other viable alternative to Garcetti capable of raising big money and with a large political following in place. Sadly, too, that Latino establishment leadership has been waiting for the departure through retirement or death of the state’s two aging senators. Boxer is 74. Senator Dianne Feinstein is 81. “Barbara Boxer’s retirement gives Latinos an incredible opportunity,” said one California Latino leader. “The paradox is that we may not have anyone capable of stepping up and winning.”The post California Latinos scramble for historic Senate seat appeared first on Voxxi.

California’s Latino political establishment is hoping to finally claim one of the two Senate seats for the first time in modern history. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

California Latino leaders began a mad scramble Thursday amid an unexpected historic opportunity to possibly elect the Golden State’s first Hispanic to the U.S. Senate.

That comes on the heels of Senator Barbara Boxer’s announcement that she will not seek reelection in 2016, marking the first time California has had an open Senate race since George H.W. Bush was president.

SEE ALSO: Rising political stars in the Republican Party 

A number of the state’s rising political stars are expected to consider running, but California’s Latino political establishment is also hoping to finally claim one of the two Senate seats for the first time in modern history.

Latinos now make up the largest demographic group in California, and their political power always comes out in greatest force in presidential election years, which of course 2016 will be.

By 2016 California will also have 1.35 million new Latino voters, accounting for 82 percent of the state’s growth in eligible voters.

And non-Latino whites will fall below 50 percent of the state’s eligible voters in 2016, according to a new study on the demographics of California voters.

“For the first time, California will have what we’re terming a ‘majority minority’ electorate,’” says Mindy Romero of the California Civic Engagement Project at UC Davis.

But Boxer’s retirement – she’s 76 – now comes at a time when some in the state’s Latino leadership fear could be the worst for electing a Hispanic to statewide office.

“Our bench isn’t that strong,” says Louis F. Moret, a longtime Latino political strategist and former Democratic National Committee member. “There are any number of names, but can they raise the money to run and win? I don’t think so.”

The exception, say Moret and others, could be Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the great-grandson of Italian immigrants to Mexico whose great-grandfather became a judge in his adopted homeland only to be hanged in the Mexican Revolution.

But three of Garcetti’s other great-grandparents were Mexicans. Through his mother Sukey Roth, he is also Jewish.

“Weekends involved bowls of menudo at my grandparents’ and bagels at my cousins’ house,” Garcetti, 42, says of his childhood with a Mexican and Jewish background.

“I think if you’re Latino, you’re very comfortable with the idea of mestizo, being mixed. So I kind of joke that I’m mestizo double, double mixed.”

Garcetti’s biggest asset could be that double-mestizo – the Latino-Jewish political and financial alliance – that could help raise the estimated $20 million bankroll it’s expected will be necessary, at least, to wage a costly statewide campaign.

However, Garcetti is not part of that traditional Latino political establishment in the state — the former office-holders, power-brokers and activists-turned-community financiers — who have long and often called the shots in California Hispanic politics since the 1970s.

Nevertheless, Garcetti, the son of a former district attorney and a former Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, has become a political force of his own transcending ethnic politics.

But will Garcetti run?

And can other Latinos aspiring for higher office be convinced to move aside? Garcetti is also playing hard-to-get for anyone trying to woo him into the race.

“I love my job and I love my city, and I am committed to the work here,” he tweeted Thursday. “I will not run for Sen. Boxer’s seat.”

The state’s longtime Latino political star, former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, has indicated he would rather run for governor in 2018 and not the 2016 Senate race.

Rep. Xavier Becerra, the No. 3 Democrat now in the House of Representatives, has shown an interest for the U.S. Senate seat in the past, as has Rep. Loretta Sanchez.

Other major Hispanic figures who could possibly enter the race include longtime Latina trailblazer Gloria Molina, the former county supervisor and city councilwoman; Hilda Solis, the former Obama Cabinet member who last year succeeded Molina on the L.A. Board of County Supervisors; and veteran state lawmaker Alex Padilla, who Monday was sworn in as Secretary of State.

Two other possibilities are California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon and former Assembly Speaker John Perez.

But none of those, according to Latino political establishment leaders, are likely capable of raising the tens of millions necessary to compete against the two most formidable Democratic candidates who could enter the race — Attorney General Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

SEE ALSO: Hilda Solis’ ‘abrupt’ resignation surprises community

One Latino backroom power-broker expressed frustration Thursday that there is no other viable alternative to Garcetti capable of raising big money and with a large political following in place.

Sadly, too, that Latino establishment leadership has been waiting for the departure through retirement or death of the state’s two aging senators. Boxer is 74. Senator Dianne Feinstein is 81.

“Barbara Boxer’s retirement gives Latinos an incredible opportunity,” said one California Latino leader. “The paradox is that we may not have anyone capable of stepping up and winning.”

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