Senate District 32: An odd tale of politics and timing

State Sen. Vanessa Delgado. (Photo:

California has long had a reputation for sometimes wacky politics: movie stars, bodybuilders and strippers have been candidates at one time or another.

None of the above are on hand this time around, but the recent situation involving who will represent state Senate District 32 is the most recent bizarre development.

She gave up being mayor of Montebello to take the Senate seat.

Listen carefully:

Vanessa Delgado was the Democratic mayor of Montebello, a city of some 62,000 in southeast Los Angeles County, when she decided to run for the state Senate. She aimed to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Democratic Sen. Tony Mendoza amid an investigation of sexual harassment.

Delgado won a special election on Aug. 7 to serve out the remainder of Mendoza’s term ending this year. Whee! Off to the Senate!

But Delgado finished third—out of the running—in the June 5 primary, so she won’t be on the November ballot. She can only serve out the remainder of Mendoza’s term, as specified in the special election. That means she won only three weeks of service on the Senate floor before the session ends. There is little more than a week left.

Delgado will therefore have the shortest tenure for a California state senator in more than 100 years.

And she gave up being mayor of Montebello to take the Senate seat.

Delgado’s Republican opponent in the special election was attorney Rita Topalian. She’s on the November ballot too, running against Democrat Bob Archuleta. Since Topalian lost to Delgado in the special election, despite Republicans spending $80,000 on her behalf, Democrats have high hopes for Archuleta, the mayor of Pico Rivera.

How did it happen?

Both the Aug. 7 special election and the June 5 primary had the same 11 candidates on the ballot. According to the most accepted theory, the required reshuffling of each candidate’s ballot listing in each of the two elections may have confused voters.

If Archuleta wins in November, it will help Democrats gain the 27 members required to achieve a two-thirds Senate supermajority. Right now, with Delgado seated, Democrats control 26 seats, one seat short. Republicans hold 14 seats.

And Mendoza?

He ran again for his former Senate seat. He finished third in the special-election primary and fourth in the regular primary.

And there was a bouquet waiting for Delgado when she arrived at her desk on the Senate floor.


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