LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Voters in the state's 32nd Senate District will cast ballots today in a runoff election to fill the seat left vacant by the resignation of Artesia Democrat Tony Mendoza, who stepped down amid sexual harassment allegations.
But the election will only determine who will fill the seat for a few months, since the winner between Republican business owner Rita Topalian and Democrat Vanessa Delgado, the mayor of Montebello, will only serve out the balance of Mendoza's term, which ends at the end of the year.
Voters in the district will vote again in November to pick a representative for the new term, which begins in January.
Topalian is on that ballot, but Delgado is not. Despite finishing second in the June primary to fill out the balance of Mendoza's current term, she finished third in essentially the same field of candidates on the same ballot to claim the new term in January. Instead, Topalian will square off in that race with Democrat Bob Archuleta.
The bizarre elections results from June have put Delgado in an unusual situation. She told the Daily News in early July that she was unsure if she would even accept the seat if she wins because it might require her to surrender her elected post in Montebello to take a temporary job in the state Senate. But Delgado has since said she is committed to ensuring the seat remains in the hands of a Democrat.
“Although my term will be short, I intend to make the most of it,” she said in a statement to her supporters in mid-July. “I will work on the issues that are most important to California's working families. I will work to find ways to create affordable housing, improve our education system and create good jobs.”
Democrats are anxious to hold onto the seat because it would push them closer to a supermajority in the Senate.
Topalian has run twice for the state Assembly, in 2004 and 2104. She and her husband have lived in the Whittier area for about three decades.
On her campaign website, she says her priorities include repealing the recent statewide gas tax, protecting Proposition 13 and working “to strengthen and improve our education system to ensure that it provides the very best to the young minds and future voters of California.”
The district includes Artesia, Bellflower, Buena Park, Cerritos, Commerce, Downey, Hacienda Heights, Hawaiian Gardens, La Habra Heights, La Mirada, Lakewood, Los Nietos, Montebello, Norwalk, Pico Rivera, Rose Hills, Santa Fe Springs, South Whittier and Whittier.