Marquez faces crowded field in Assembly race

DOWNEY - After months of courting key endorsements and quietly fundraising among base supporters, campaign season is now in full swing as six candidates have officially filed to run in the newly-created 58th Assembly District.Downey Councilman Luis Marquez, who announced his intentions to run for the seat last October, said his campaign is already preparing for the competitive election by focusing heavily on voter outreach in the nine cities represented under the large district. "Things are going great, it's a lot of work, but the endorsements are going great. We're getting new endorsements on a weekly basis," Marquez said. "My goal is to get the message out to voters and let them know who I am." Marquez, however, is just one of several Democratic candidates who filed last Friday to run for the wide-open Assembly seat. Nomination papers were also submitted by financial consultant and businessman Sultan "Sam" Ahmad of Artesia, Cristina Garcia, an educator from Bell Gardens, Daniel Crespo, a councilman in Bell Gardens, and former Assemblyman Tom Calderon of Montebello. Just one Republican filed to run for the seat, Downey businesswoman Patricia Kotze-Ramos. "The more the merrier," Marquez said with a laugh. "It adds more interest to the campaign and that's the great thing about our democracy, citizens have that opportunity to run for public office." Nonetheless, Calderon, who runs a political consulting business and serves as a healthcare advocate, seemingly poses the greatest threat to Marquez's chances at winning the seat. Both of Calderon's brothers, Ron and Charles, are currently serving in the California state legislature and his nephew, Ian Calderon, is running a strong campaign for the 57th Assembly District seat. Tom Calderon, himself, has his own political background in the state Assembly where he served from 1998-2002. Marquez, nevertheless, has the support of more than two dozen local mayors, council members, and state representatives in the 58th Assembly District. "We have a broad base of support throughout the region," said Marquez. "These are folks I've known for a while. I'm fortunate that they want to be supportive of my campaign. We're looking at a tough road, but the goal for us is to finish first and run the best campaign we can." Both Marquez and Calderon have already raised thousands of dollars toward the Democratic primary on June 5 and the general election, which lands on Nov. 6. According to a financial report, tallying campaign contributions up until Dec. 31, Tom Calderon pulled in more than $152,000 and accumulated nearly $31,300 in campaign expenses last year. The bulk of these early contributions came from political committees and healthcare corporations, including $27,300 from administrators at Pacific Hospital of Long Beach alone. Last calendar year, Marquez collected nearly $103,000 toward his Assembly bid, including a $25,000 loan he made to his campaign. Marquez's largest contributions came from Downey business owners and representatives from Los Angeles-based charter school organization Celerity Education Group, who donated a total of $18,100 to Marquez's campaign efforts. "Fundraising is going well. We've raised close to $140,000 so far," Marquez said. "Of course, Downey is my home, my base...but there are nine cities in the 58th Assembly District and I need support in every city." Marquez, who worked for state Sen. Alan Lowenthal's office as a senior district aide, lost his last Assembly bid to now-state Sen. Ricardo Lara two years ago when he finished in third place in the Democratic primary. This primary, however, is the first to be held since California residents passed Proposition 14 in 2010. In past elections, the winning candidate from each political party was then placed on the November ballot, but Proposition 14 calls an open primary where the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, will be listed on the general election ballot in November. "You can't go in just thinking about June. The ultimate goal is win in June, then win in November," said Marquez. "This new district needs someone who knows the issues and knows this district," Marquez added. "Anyone running for office must be responsive to the cities they represent. I will be an advocate, a fighter, and a resource for the 58th Assembly District."

********** Published: March 15, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 48