Judy Chu ahead in 32nd Congressional District vote

By Jean Merl
July 15, 2009

State Board of Equalization member Judy Chu, who forged multiethnic coalitions during more than two decades in public office, was winning Tuesday's special election to the San Gabriel Valley-based 32nd Congressional District as returns were being tallied.

If Chu's wide lead in early returns holds up as expected, she will become the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress, according to the Office of the House Historian and the Congressional Research Service. Democrat Chu was running for the seat made vacant by Hilda Solis' elevation to U.S. Labor secretary.

Chu's apparent defeat of Republican Betty Tom Chu, a cousin by marriage, and Libertarian Christopher M. Agrella was widely expected after she finished first in a field of 12 in the May 19 primary. Latinos make up the largest voting group in the strongly Democratic district, which runs from Los Angeles' East Side through Covina.

Her solid showing "confirms what I felt after the primary, that the voters appreciate somebody with deep roots in the district," Chu said Tuesday night from her victory party at Nick's Taste of Texas restaurant in Covina.

By the end of last month, Chu had raised more than $1.3 million for her campaign. She also had help from organized labor and from EMILY'S List, a national organization that supports pro-choice, Democratic female candidates.

Chu won her first elected office, a seat on the Garvey School Board, in 1985. Three years later she captured a City Council seat in Monterey Park, after she and her husband, attorney Mike Eng, helped battle a racially divisive "English-only" campaign in the rapidly changing city. In 2001, after two unsuccessful attempts, she was elected to the state Assembly, then won a seat on the state Board of Equalization in 2001.