CarterAfrican Americans were poised to make their greatest gain yet in the Legislature, with three black Democrats winning their party’s nomination in new districts where their success in November’s general election is practically a sure bet.

Their election would increase the number of African Americans in the Legislature from six to nine, the highest ever at a time when the percentage of blacks in California is slipping. It would also increase the number of black women in the Legislature from one to three.

"That’s historic and I think it’s reflective of the fact that African Americans can win in non-African American districts," said Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles).

In the 62nd Assembly District in San Bernardino County, longtime Rialto school board member Wilmer Amina Carter (pictured) defeated Jeremy Baca, the youngest son of local Democratic Rep. Joe Baca, 58% to 42%. In the 55th Assembly District, Long Beach City Councilwoman Laura Richardson beat Warren Furutani, an Assembly consultant.

And in Oakland, retired congressional staffer Sandre Swanson defeated three people for the 16th Assembly District seat, which has not been held by a black person in a decade.

Carter, Richardson and Swanson are expected to win in November because the three Assembly districts are dominated by Democratic voters.

Black political strategists said they learned a lesson from Latinos and backed qualified candidates in diverse districts running on issues other than civil rights.

"There will be no more so-called black districts," said Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton), chairman of the Legislature’s Black Caucus. He helped raise $40,000 from the Morongo Band of Mission Indians that paid for mailers on behalf of Richardson and Swanson.

An African American will likely retain the 48th Assembly District seat in South-Central Los Angeles, now held by Mark Ridley-Thomas, where Mike Davis beat Anthony Willoughby and Edward R. Turner in the Democratic primary.

Similarly, the two Democrats locked in a race too close to call for the 51st Assembly District, which includes Inglewood and Gardena, are black: Steve Bradford, a utility manager, and Inglewood City Councilman Curren D. Price.

One of the few competitive legislative seats in November will include a black candidate: Maxine Sherard, a retired professor, won the Democratic primary for the 78th Assembly District in inland San Diego County. She will face incumbent Republican Shirley Horton in November in a district where 42% of voters are registered Democratic and 35% are registered Republican.

The current Legislature is dominated by liberal Democrats allied with unions and trial lawyers, and businesses have invested millions of dollars to try to elect Democrats sympathetic to their concerns.

Tuesday’s results will temper the Legislature’s liberalism less than business interests had hoped, with several moderate Democrats losing to more liberal opponents.

Still, four moderate Democrats won nominations for Senate seats and are considered shoo-ins for the November general election, promising to make the Senate a riskier place for bills that would increase business regulation or litigation.

"Is the business community better off today than it was at the start of the day yesterday? The answer is yes," said Darry Sragow, a Democratic strategist who advised the California Chamber of Commerce on targeting campaign donations.

Key losses for business on Tuesday were former Assemblyman George Nakano of Torrance, who was defeated by Assemblywoman Jenny Oropeza for Senate District 28, which includes Long Beach, and former Assemblyman John Dutra, who, despite abundant campaign money, was beat by former Assemblywoman Ellen Corbett for an East Bay Senate seat.

Other Democratic winners backed by business in the Senate include Los Angeles City Councilman Alex Padilla, who beat Assemblywoman Cindy Montañez in District 20 in the San Fernando Valley, and Orange County Supervisor Lou Correa, who soundly defeated Assemblyman Tom Umberg 59% to 41% for District 34, which covers inland Orange County. Assemblywoman Gloria Negrete-McLeod, also a moderate, easily beat colleague Joe Baca Jr. of Rialto for Senate District 32 in western San Bernardino County.

Assemblyman Ronald S. Calderon, a frequent ally of the banking and insurance industries, is locked in a tight race against colleague Rudy Bermudez of Norwalk for Senate District 30 in southeastern L.A. County. A few hundred votes separated the candidates, and a final result could take weeks.

Having a spouse in the Legislature was no guarantee of a candidate’s success. All three wives running lost and one husband won.

Source: Los Angeles Times