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Food stamp advocate Baca lost in strange race

Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif.
Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif.
Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., who lived on food stamps for a time in his childhood and was one of the staunchest advocates for anti-hunger programs on the House Agriculture Committee, lost his seat in one of the strangest races of the 2012 electoral season.

Under California’s new election laws, the top two winners of primaries ran against each other even if they were from the same party, and Baca ended up in a race against another Democrat, Gloria Negrete McLeod.

Baca told The Wall Street Journal last week that he had been defeated after being “hit with a tornado” — an advertising campaign against him funded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose political action committee, Independence USA PAC, spent $3.3 million to defeat him.

Bloomberg’s PAC supported candidates and ballot initiatives that favored gun control, stronger schools and same-sex marriage.

Baca, who had represented Riverside, Calif., and the suburbs east of Los Angeles, competed with McLeod, a California state senator, in the newly drawn 35th District, which includes communities in Pomona, the Chino Valley, Ontario and Fontana, the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, an Ontario, Calif. publication reported.

Although there was some overlap with Baca’s prior district, redistricting shifted the boundaries to the west of Baca’s constituency and into Los Angeles County, the
Gloria Negrete McLeod

Gloria Negrete McLeod
McLeod, who won by an overall 55.7 to 44.3 percent margin, was the top vote-getter in San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties, and in Los Angeles county she won nearly 63 percent of the vote, the Daily Bulletin said.

Bloomberg’s PAC bought ads and mailings favoring McLeod, but its real goal was to defeat Baca because he had a pro-gun rights record and had been praised by the National Rifle Association, VOXXI, a Miami-based Hispanic news website reported.

The Washington Post Election 2012 blog called Baca’s defeat the PAC’s “big win.”

“There has never really been an effective counterweight to the NRA — at least in terms of dollars, cents and the ability to get a message out,” Stefan Friedman, a a PAC spokesman told VOXXI.

“I think the mayor’s been clear this is an issue he cares very passionately about and this could very well be a curtain-raiser to the future.”

One of the ads the PAC bought read, “Congressman Baca voted to allow sex offenders and suspected terrorist to bring concealed weapons into California,” VOXXI said. Baca responded at a news conference by asking, “Doesn’t Mayor Michael Bloomberg have more important things to worry about than a congressional district in California?”

After the election, Baca said he was considering retirement from public affairs, the Daily Bulletin reported.

“I'm just going to let the dust settle and mull it over and decide what to do,” he said.