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Calif. Rep.’s Ouster Explained

March 8, 2000

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The lopsided defeat of nine-term Rep. Matthew ``Marty″ Martinez _ the only congressman to lose in Tuesday’s primaries around the country _ dramatizes the influence of a new generation of elected leaders in California: young, dynamic and Hispanic.

Outspoken state Sen. Hilda Solis, 42, handily defeated Martinez, 71, in the Democratic primary after the low-key incumbent had been assailed as an ineffective leader and criticized by his party for his recent votes on guns and abortion.

The race in the diverse East Los Angeles district demonstrated how the state’s Hispanic electorate has changed, analysts said Wednesday. It is rare in California and elsewhere around the country for two politically powerful Hispanic candidates to run against each other in a primary.

``It shows a maturation that is going on in the Latino community. Before, since the seats were so few and so precious, there were these hushed expectations _ `You can’t run because we only have one seat,‴ said Harry Pachon, president of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute at Claremont Graduate University.

``Now with districts like that that are so strongly Latino, you’re going to see the same pluralism that exists in mainstream America.″

Solis’ margin of victory was particularly striking: She had 63 percent to Martinez’s 28 percent. She is virtually assured of winning in November because there is no Republican challenger.

``Martinez has been there for a long time, and I think he’s getting complacent,″ said Joseph Giampaolo, 52, of Rosemead, who voted for Solis. ``I think we need a new face.″

Elsewhere in nationwide Super Tuesday voting, incumbents maintained their traditional advantage.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein easily defeated a labor lawyer to win the Democratic nomination for a second full term and will face moderate Republican Rep. Tom Campbell in November.

Republican Sen. Mike DeWine brushed aside his GOP challengers in Ohio, and will take on Democratic real estate broker Ted Celeste, the brother of former Gov. Richard Celeste.

Maryland Sen. Paul Sarbanes coasted to the Democratic nomination in his bid for a fifth term. His GOP opponent will be former Howard County Police Chief Paul Rappaport.

Another nine-term congressman, Rep. James Traficant Jr. of Ohio, was challenged in the Democratic primary for the first time but won a four-way race _ despite his prediction that he will be indicted in a corruption investigation.

In California, former Rep. Jay Kim lost in his GOP race against businessman Elia Pirozzi. Kim was ousted by voters after pleading guilty to accepting illegal campaign contributions in 1992 and was trying to make a comeback by challenging Rep. Joe Baca.

Baca, a former state senator who won his seat after former Rep. George Brown died last summer, is considered part of the new generation of California Hispanic elected officials.

Among them, all Democrats, are Rep. Loretta Sanchez, Rep. Xavier Becerra, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and state Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa. Villaraigosa and Becerra are running for mayor of Los Angeles in 2001.

``This may be a precursor for elections to come because the Latino electorate is creating a cadre of future leaders,″ Pachon said. ``Clearly by the year 2010, we will have a statewide Latino either as governor or as U.S. senator.″

In California, where 14 percent of registered voters are Hispanic, 762 Hispanic officials hold elected offices at various levels of government, Pachon said. Nationwide, 5.6 percent of registered voters are Hispanic.

Turnout by California Hispanics increased in the mid-1990s during debates over divisive anti-immigrant and affirmative action propositions.

Martinez said his defeat had less to do with the power of the new generation than with the campaigning style of Solis. Her campaign raised $552,731, a 5-to-1 advantage, boasted of major endorsements from education and labor groups and called every Democrat in the district up to three times in the weeks before the election.

``I’d characterize it as meaner and aggressive, that’s all _ and really aggressive to the point of being obnoxious and intimidating people,″ Martinez said.

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