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Long Beach City Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske (D) said Wednesday she is a candidate to replace the late Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D) in the 37th district.

Schipske expects to launch a Web site and file her Federal Election Commission paperwork in the next few days. The councilwoman, who is general counsel for the Teachers Association of Long Beach, ran for Congress in the old 38th district in 2000, losing to then-Rep. Steve Horn (R) by less than 1 percent.

“It’s going to be an interesting scramble for everybody because this is [an eight-week] campaign,” Schipske said in a brief telephone interview.

Early in Schipske’s political career, she served as press secretary and legislative assistant to then-Rep. Shirley Pettis (D-Calif.). Ironically, Pettis represented the 37th district, although she did so when it comprised portions of Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Millender-McDonald died April 22 after battling cancer. A special election to replace her has been called for June 26. If the winning candidate in that race does not garner more than 50 percent of the vote, the top vote-getters from each political party will proceed to an Aug. 21 runoff.

Schipske believes her council post gives her an advantage in the race, as 80 percent of Long Beach falls within the 37th district.

Also Wednesday, state Sen. Jenny Oropeza (D) made her candidacy for the vacant seat official, saying at a campaign kickoff in Long Beach that she would be a problem-solver if elected. State Assemblywoman Laura Richardson (D) made her candidacy official Tuesday.

With the death of Millender-McDonald, who was black, the interests of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus could clash.

“I’m hoping that neither of those factions makes this about the color or race of the candidates,” Schipske said. “This is a Congressional seat that is very diverse and the person elected has to represent everyone in the district.”

— David M. Drucker

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