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Northeast District Race Taking Historic Form

The likely new 29th Congressional District creates an opportunity for a Latino to represent the Valley in Congress for the first time.

With the new Northeast San Fernando Valley 29th Congressional District tentatively approved by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission and close to being finalized on Aug. 15, the race for who will represent the new district is beginning to look like it will be a high-profile and historic one.

The new district will include North Hollywood, as well as a portion of Valley Village, and stretch north to include Van Nuys, Sun Valley, Sylmar and other parts of the Northeast San Fernando Valley. Rep. Brad Sherman, who currently represents most of the area as part of the current 28th District, has indicated he will likely run in the new western San Fernando Valley District, where his home is located.

No current member of Congress lives in the proposed 29th District, which represents approximately 69 percent Latinos, and no Latino has ever represented the San Fernando Valley in Congress before, leading some political analysts to predict an opportunity for a strong Latino candidate to win the district.

Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas, a Latino and a Democrat who represents a portion of the proposed 29th District, not long after the preliminary borders of the district were announced in June.

So far the only other candidate is David Hernandez, the president of the San Fernando Chamber of Commerce, who is a Latino and a Republican. The new district is composed of 56 percent Democrats, 17 percent Republicans and 26 percent "other," according to the U.S Census Bureau, numbers which will prove a challenge for the conservative Hernandez.

The two candidates also seem to be taking a different approach to the attention that has been focused on the possibility of a Latino representing the Valley for the first time.

Cardenas has not been shy about trumpeting his Latino heritage. In a recent press release titled ""Latino Valley Leaders Rally Around Tony Cardenas For Congress," he listed a number of politicians who have endorsed him, including State Senator Alex Padilla, Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes, and Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member Nury Martinez, and repeatedly reminded voters of the historic opportunity to send a Latino from the Valley to Congress.

"The new boundaries finally unite East San Fernando Valley communities in a single congressional district, and predominately Latino voter registration in the district signals a historic opportunity for Latinos to increase their representation in Congress," the press release said.   

Hernandez, who has also started to pick up endorsements, including State Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, seems to be taking the opposite approach and wants to downplay his ethnicity. On July 31, he posted on his Twitter page, "I believe bringing opportunity and prosperity to the north east san fernando valley is more important than the color of my skin. Thoughts???"

Hernandez may want to downplay the ethnicity factor in the election, but much attention was placed on it back in 2001 when the current lines of the 28th Congressional District were drawn. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a federal lawsuit claiming that officials had violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting the Latino vote when drawing boundaries for certain districts, including the 28th, the Los Angeles Times reported. The challenge was unsuccessful.

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