The Bocanegra Conundrum is not a book title from the late thriller novelist Robert Ludlum — but there is mystery involved. Patty Lopez, a neophyte community activist concerned with education, knocked Raul Bocanegra, a respected up and coming one-term assembly member, from his post in the November election.
The political upset was so stunning that it even drew a cautionary editorial from the Los Angles Times. The Times editorial suggested reasons that the incumbent who captured the primary vote by a landslide failed in the General Election.
Much has been made of Lopez’s name appearing before Bocanegra’s in the list of candidates, a position that other Democratic candidates held on the ballot above Republican names in different races, suggesting that voters in choosing Lopez believed they were selecting a Democrat over a Republican. Others argue that the low voter turnout influenced the outcome or that Republicans voted against the incumbent since there was no Republican on the ballot in this top-two election final.
The Times basically concluded, to use the line popularized by former U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill, “All politics are local.” In other words, the editorial suggested Bocanegra ignored constituents in his district during the campaign while helping other candidates in an effort to broaden his network throughout the state.
There is probably some truth in all these reasons put forth about Bocanegra’s defeat. What is certain is that a promising leader in the assembly who showed willingness to work with the business community has lost his position. As chairman of the powerful Revenue and Taxation committee Bocanegra was concerned with growing the economy. He understood that actions that stymied business would undercut job creation especially for those same constituents of his that some have charged he ignored.
Bocanegra worked with a number of members of the business community to pass a film tax credit and to find a fix on a certain change of ownership issue for commercial property that didn’t threaten to undercut Proposition 13’s taxpayer protections. His leadership on these issues will be missed.
More mystery surrounds the positions of the newly elected Patty Lopez. No one is certain where the new assembly member will stand on similar issues. One supporter of Lopez wrote me that she is open to facts and reason and that “depending on the issue, she can be very conservative.”
In the meantime, watch for Bocanegra to keep a close eye on this seat. If he decides to go for that office or any other in the next few years you can expect he will be spending the whole time campaigning in the district.