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DOWNEY - College professor and political activist Cristina Garcia cruised to victory on Tuesday night, easily defeating Republican challenger Patricia Kotze-Ramos after a combative race in the 58th Assembly district.
With 100 percent of the precincts reporting, Garcia of Bell Gardens earned 71.5 percent of the vote, nearly 69,250 votes, while Kotze-Ramos of Downey trailed behind with just 28.5 percent.
"I want to say thank you to the voters who exercised their civic duty," Garcia said. "To my constituents, I am excited and blessed by this opportunity. I promise to work hard and with a passion, but I ask for patience. I need time to learn - grow with me along the way."
Garcia believes the large majority includes both Democrats and Republicans who embraced her message of reform.
"We surpassed the Democratic enrollment so this is not just party politics," she said. "In Sacramento, I will extend the olive branch to my peers and I hope they're willing to do that too."
Instrumental in bringing reform to the embattled city of Bell, Garcia organized a community group, called BASTA, Bell Association to Stop the Abuse, which called for the resignation of corrupt city administrators and continues to fight for access to decision-making for residents.
In 2009, Garcia ran for the Bell Gardens City Council, but lost. However, the 34-year-old used her activism and prior campaign experience to outpace rival Tom Calderon during the Democratic primary.
Garcia used donated space inside the historic Rives Mansion in Downey and led a community-driven, grassroots campaign with experienced team members.
Endorsed by the California League of Conservation Voters, Ali Saleh and Danny Harber, the mayor and vice-mayor of Bell, and the Bell Police Officers Association, Garcia gained the support of several advocacy groups and political outsiders that vouched for her reformer credentials.
Garcia's inauguration will mark the first time in 14 years that a member of the Calderon family will not represent the 58th Assembly District, which first elected Tom Calderon in 1998 followed by his brothers Ron and Charles.
The newly-drawn district includes the cities of Artesia, Bell Gardens, Bellflower, Cerritos, Commerce, Downey, Montebello, Pico Rivera and portions of Norwalk.
Published: November 8, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 30