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California: Chu, Cedillo Pick Up Key Endorsements

The top candidates in the May 19 special election to replace Labor Secretary Hilda Solis each picked up endorsements Wednesday.

State Board of Equalization Chairwoman Judy Chu (D) was endorsed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Villaraigosa appeared with Chu and four other mayors from cities in the 32nd Congressional district to announce his support.

Villaraigosa and Chu’s chief opponent in the all-party primary, state Sen. Gil Cedillo (D), used to be close allies, until Cedillo endorsed then-L.A. Mayor James Hahn and not Villaraigosa in the 2005 mayoral race.

But Cedillo also got good news Wednesday when two key unions, the Southern California District Council of Laborers locals and the United Farm Workers of America, announced that they were backing him.

“At a special meeting of all Laborers that live in the 32nd Congressional district, our membership voted to endorse Sen. Cedillo by a margin of more than 3 to 1,— Laborers’ Local 300 Business Manager Sergio Rascon said in a statement. “Gil is a champion for working families and we are proud that our membership voted to endorse his campaign for Congress.—

While the UFW does not have a big presence in a largely urban district, its endorsement carries symbolic weight in a district where half the voters are Latino. However, Dolores Huerta, who co-founded the union in the 1960’s with the late César Chávez, has endorsed Chu.

Busby Is Not the Only Democratic Candidate

College instructor Francine Busby (D) announced last week that she would try for a fourth time to win the 50th district seat in 2010, after Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) scraped by with just 50 percent of the vote in November.

But she does not have the Democratic field to herself. Attorney Tracy Emblem (D) has already been in the race for two months. She reported raising almost $25,000 — $19,000 from her own pocket — in the first three months of the year, and finished March with almost $5,000 in her campaign account.

“Despite previous setbacks for Democratic candidates running in the district, Tracy believes that the 50th Congressional district election can be won with the right candidate from the inland area where the incumbent’s base is the strongest,— Emblem’s Web site reads. “The ground work for the 2010 election must begin immediately for a successful campaign.—

Busby was the Democratic nominee in the San Diego-area district three times: first in 2004 against then-Rep. Duke Cunningham (R), then in a highly publicized and expensive 2006 special election after Cunningham resigned in disgrace. Bilbray narrowly defeated Busby in that election, then went on to beat her again in the much quieter 2006 general election.

Last year, with Busby on the sidelines, the Democratic nominee was Nick Leibham, a young attorney who spent more than $1.2 million on the race. It’s not clear whether he’ll run again or if national party leaders are comfortable with the idea of Busby trying again.

Leibham did not raise any money in the first quarter of 2009, but he did have $13,000 on hand. Bilbray raised $87,000 and banked $88,000.

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