By: Scott Lay, Publisher of the Nooner, a California Political Newsletter
The race to succeed Curt Hagman in the 55th Assembly District is one of the most interesting on the GOP side in 2014. The district stretches from the communities of Yorba Linda, Brea and Placentia up the 57 to Walnut and Diamond Bar, combining the northernmost part of Orange County, the easternmost part of Los Angeles County, and the westernmost part of San Bernardino County.
The district has large Asian and Latino populations, which combine for nearly half of the citizen voting age population. If you took that on its face, you would think the district would be toss-up, or even favorable for Democrats. However, much of the district is wealthy and conservative. Mitt Romney outpolled Barack Obama here in 2012 by 6.4%, and this race will safely be in the Republican column in 2014.
The floor for Democrats here is probably around 36% in off-year elections. Thus, if only one Democrat runs, one Republican and one Democrat will emerge in the top-two primary, setting up an easy win in November for the successful GOP candidate.
While as many as six Republicans have been talked about as candidates, there are three that have taken significant steps and filed a Statement of Intent with the Secretary of State. They are Diamond Bar councilmember Ling-Ling Chang, Walnut Valley Unified trustee Phillip Chen, and Yorba Linda councilmember Craig Young. And, the GOP “establishment” has primarily split among these three.
Chang has the support of Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, whose wife Mei Mei Huff serves as Chang’s treasurer. Chen has the support of Assemblymember Hagman and former Assemblymember Bob Pachecho, whose wife Gayle Pacheco lost to Huff when he ran for the Assembly seat in 2004. Meanwhile, Craig Young has the support of many Orange County leaders, including former Senate Minority Leader Dick Ackerman and Assemblymember Jim Silva.
The 37-year-old Chang works as the CEO of an education nonprofit, while the 35-year-old Chen workes as a deputy to LA Supe Mike Antonovich, teaches several universities and serves as a reserve sheriff deputy. Forty-nine year-old Young is an attorney who now primarily works in finance.
It’s an interesting race, for reasons beyond the split of the folks who have been elected from the area. First, you have the geographic divide–Los Angeles accounts for 37%, San Bernardino for 13%, and Orange for 47%. The LA voters have a Democratic edge, and a lower turnout off cycle race will tilt voters a little more toward the strongly GOP Orange County.
Then you have another issue. While 25.7% of the citizen voting-age population is Asian, splitting that between two Taiwanese-Americans with only a third non-Asian Republican in the race could be dicey, particularly with both from the Los Angeles County part of the district and with only one Orange County candidate. Chang and Chen need some of the other candidates (e.g. Steve Tye, Jeremy Yamaguchi) to join the party.
That said, Craig Young hasn’t reported raising any money yet, while Ling-Ling Chang ended June 30 with $245,141 on hand and Phillip Chen ended the semi-annual with $319,000. Both Chang and Chen have lent $100,000 to their campaigns. Chang is on the ballot next Tuesday for reelection to the Diamond Bar City Council.