In the race for the southeast Los Angeles County and northern Orange County state Senate seat now known as the 32nd District, it might seem scandal-plagued incumbent Ron Calderon is a hard act to follow.
Or a very easy one indeed, depending on your perspective. Calderon, D-Montebello, is facing trial on 24 federal counts of corruption in office, including attempted bribery and money laundering. Though he would have been term-limited out of office after "serving," if that's the right word, in the Senate since 2006. He's on paid leave from the Legislature, where he is the third of the Calderon brothers to hold office, and dropped his plan to run for state controller in the June election.
So that's the sense in which it is easy for the five candidates seeking the Senate seat. All they have to do in a sense is to tell voters "I am not a crook; I am not Ron Calderon," a low hurdle to clear.
But the sense in which it's hard to campaign for the seat he now holds is the cynicism politicians such as Calderon and his whole gang engender in the electorate.
What's the point, some voters say, of sending someone new to Sacramento if it's just a school for scoundrels?
We understand the emotion there -- but we ask voters in the district to think it through rather than allowing hurt feelings to get in the way.
The district needs its best representative doing the people's business in the state Capitol. Calderon is gone and will soon meet his legal fate. The large 32nd District covers 19 cities, including all of Whittier, Pico Rivera and Montebello, along with 15 unincorporated areas. Voter registration is 49 percent Democratic and just 30 percent Republican -- with the wild card being, as it is increasingly throughout California, the 20 percent of voters who are independent. There are four Democrats and one Republican in the race.
Under the new guidelines, the two top finishers of whichever party will go on to the November election. Our No. 1 choice for the June primary for voters of any or no party affiliation is Marco Guerra, the Republican member of the Downey City Council. The moderate Guerra, an immigrant from Cuba as a child, is the kind of go-getting, California-first, non-ideological candidate we need more of around here. Both rock-ribbed GOPers and middle-of-the-road Democrats can feel quite comfortable with his positions on the issues, which revolve around jobs, not ideological posturing. A deacon of the Catholic Church, he even goes so far as to say, as he told our editorial board: "I am left on many issues because of my faith -- on immigration -- and right on fiscal issues. I am a moderate."
Guerra says he would not be guided by the minority leadership in the state Senate -- "We are not elected by the leadership but by the people," he said. He says that, unlike so many incumbents, he would have no problem opening up his office calendar entirely to the electorate and to the press. As the current president of the California Independent Cities Association, he's familiar with the needs of municipalities all over the state.
A public servant such as Guerra, who is a small businessman as well as a police department chaplain, will be just the ticket for a district and a state that needs to recover from criminal corruption.