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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Ethnic Officeholders and Party Activists in Los Angeles County

  • Author(s): Guerra, Fernando J.
  • Marvick, Dwaine
  • et al.

This inquiry into ethnic participation in Los Angeles party politics starts with a look at the comparative success in gaining public office that representatives of five minority status groups have had since 1960. Specifically, the success in winning significant political office by candidates who are Latino, Black, Jewish, Asian and/or women has been quite different. It has been much more rapid for Jews than for Blacks, who in turn have outpaced Latinos, while Asians have had little success throughout the 27-year period. Further, women not linked to these ethnic communities have not done as well as women from ethnic communities in gaining public office.

In 1960, ethnic minorities held 5 percent of the most significant elective positions in Los Angeles County. By 1986, the ethnic communities of Los Angeles (Latino, Black, Jewish and Asian) provided 54 percent of the individuals holding the most significant elective positions. What developments in Los Angeles have led to this inclusion of ethnic minorities into the governing circles? By exploring some trends associated with the political inclusion of minorities in the elective arena, it is hoped that lines of inquiry will emerge which can help explain this phenomenon.

What follows is an examination of the trends associated with Latinos, Blacks and Jews gaining significant elective positions in each of the three stages. Asians are excluded from further analysis because of their lack of success. Specifically, the focus is on whether the positions gained were in districts which were at least one-third minority, recently reapportioned, vacant, or previously held by a like minority. In discussing these trends associated with minorities gaining significant elective positions in Los Angeles County, the election of each minority to a position that he or she had not previously held will consist of a case. Thus, an individual elected to an assembly, state senate and congressional position will be considered three times.

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