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CA-32: Judy Chu claims frontrunner mantle

by: Dante Atkins

Tue May 19, 2009 at 01:51:05 AM PDT

If you've been following the CA-32 coverage on Calitics, you might have noticed that most pieces in traditional media outlets have portrayed the race as a toss-up between Chu and Cedillo.  But now, that coverage is apparently starting to change: the apparent strength of Chu's absentee voter operation, combined with the surging Pleitez campaign that experts are estimating will drain more votes from Cedillo than Chu, have caused recent news about the race to cast Judy Chu has the frontrunner.  From The Hill:

Endorsements, a hefty war chest and an effective absentee ballot program appear to have put California Board of Equalization Vice Chairwoman Judy Chu (D) in position to succeed former Rep.-turned-Labor Secretary Hilda Solis (D-Calif.).

In earlier coverage, I reported that as of Wednesday, 29% of the 12,000 or so ballots cast were cast by voters of Asian-Pacific Islander descent, according to Chu campaign consultant Parke Skelton.  Skelton must be even happier now:

Skelton said that as of Friday, between 16,000 and 17,000 voters had returned absentee ballots and 31 percent of those were Asian - far higher than the 18 percent of Asian voters in the district. He expects that there are another 4,000 absentees that were returned over the weekend, and expects to do well among those as well.

"We had a very substantial door-to-door campaign generating absentee ballots," he said.

Similarly, NPR's political blog, Political Junkie, is even more explicit:

California's 32nd Congressional District, just east of Los Angeles, is about 63 percent Latino, 22 percent Asian. It is the seat held since 2001 by Hilda Solis (D), now the secretary of labor. Prior to that, it was held for 18 years by Matthew Martinez, a Democrat, who lost to Solis in the 2000 primary at the age of 71 amid charges that he was ineffective and invisible.

But if anecdotal evidence is to be believed, this overwhelmingly Hispanic district may send an Asian woman, Judy Chu, on her way to Congress in Tuesday's special primary.

So, if Emanuel Pleitez is eating away at Cedillo's base and Judy Chu is making the Asian vote perform, two questions arise: 1) how does Chu lose, and 2) how does Cedillo win?

The first question can be answered with a name you've probably heard before: Betty Chu (if you haven't, here's some background.)  In such a low-turnout special, voter confusion could matter--and Betty Chu appears to be taking full advantage.  From The Hill:

Complicating matters further for Judy Chu, Betty Chu chose to have her name transliterated into Chinese on the ballot, opting for a symbol that bears a striking resemblance to Judy Chu's Chinese character.

As Parke Skelton, Judy Chu's top strategist, deadpanned: "It's kind of a problem for us."

Skelton countered the issue by playing up the difference in the two Chinese characters. Since Judy Chu's character means, in part, "heart," Skelton sent mail to Asian voters with an Americanized heart symbol around his candidate's name, hoping to remind them to remember "heart" in the voting booth.

Hardly a coincidence, I would imagine.  But the second question...how can Cedillo win?  That question actually has two answers.  The first, as mentioned before, is an extensive ground game:

Cedillo's camp, however, isn't giving up any ground. Derek Humphrey, Cedillo's campaign manager, believes he has a superior Election Day get-out-the-vote campaign in place.

"We've got three campaign offices, five or six staging locations," he said. "We're everywhere in the district."

But apparently, the Cedillo campaign has another secret weapon...the Los Angeles Lakers!


No word on whether Kobe Bryant is going to walk any El Monte neighborhoods before the game--or whether the Cedillo campaign got (or needed) permission from the NBA to use official affiliate logo on its campaign materials.

Dante Atkins :: CA-32: Judy Chu claims frontrunner mantle
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