Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Turkey, transition and tradition: Tony Cardenas moving from local to national political scene

Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas

Sharon McNary/KPCC

L.A. City Councilman Tony Cardenas is moving to Congress, meaning he'll represent about a half-million more constituents.

California voters are sending fourteen new members of Congress to Washington in early January. Tony Cardenas is one of them. Monday afternoon, the Los Angeles City Councilman  took a few minutes during his annual turkey giveaway for needy families to reflect on the coming change.

He'll represent his current 200,000 San Fernando Valley constituents, plus another half-million in the 29th Congressional District to which he was elected Nov. 6.

It's Cardenas' tenth consecutive year on the food distribution assembly line, handing out the frozen birds to families who were nominated to receive Thanksgiving gifts by local schools and non-profit groups. After about 20 minutes of transferring turkeys into bags and receiving the thanks of the last of the families, Cardenas' hands are chilled.

The turkey hand-out has become something of a tradition. Now Cardenas is hoping he doesn't draw the short straw in another tradition — the lottery for new members' office space on Capitol Hill.

"One office, they say, is notorious because people walk through your office to go to the bathroom, which I think is just not nice," Cardenas said.

As he concentrates on moving from local to federal government, Cardenas says he needs to let go of issues such as filling potholes and fixing street lights.

"Now, as a congressman, I have to discipline myself to understand that that's not my responsibility directly," he said. "However, I will be trying my best to make sure that various departments get grants to my community."

Cardenas sees it as returning tax funds to the community, and he's already getting requests. He told the crowd he will focus on policy issues such as creating a path to permanent residency and citizenship for immigrants.

Cardenas is taking one of his City Hall staffers with him to Washington; the rest of his D.C. staff will be people who have experience navigating the federal labyrinth.

"It's a very confusing place, literally," he said. "The tunnels are like mazes and it's hard to find the offices and find your way around. It's going to take a bit of time for me to acclimate."

Constituents such as Antonia Lamas, while thankful for the bag of food, are also focused on the bigger picture, and on what Cardenas can do for them in Washington."The most important thing," she said, "is that he get immigration laws implemented and enforced so that we all benefit."


How election 2012, redistricting changed California's congressional map (graphic)

U.S. Capitol

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Tuesday's election — coming on the heels of a tumultuous redistricting process — transformed the map of California's congressional representation, if not the actual balance between Republicans and Democrats in the state's official delegation.

Check out the geographical differences in the interactive map below. (You can toggle between the map as it appeared in 2010 and the new map as it appears now.)

New concentrations of congressional power for Democrats, incumbent losses and new faces — as well as the appearance of "No Party Preference" candidates in the general elections — were among the political changes that came out of Tuesday's election.

The redistricting process delivered congressional districts to Democrats around Sacramento and in the 31st and 56th in the southern part of the state for a net gain of one seat from the GOP.


Rep. Laura Richardson's Congressional account is tapped out (CORRECTION)

Kitty Felde/KPCC

Rep. Laura Richardson


The original version of this story erroneously reported that U.S. Rep. Laura Richardson lost her home to foreclosure earlier this year. In 2007, a home the Congresswoman owned in Sacramento was foreclosed upon, but she was able to stop the process and retain ownership.

On Thursday, the Congresswoman disputed a report that the taxpayer-funded account to run her offices in Washington and Long Beach has been depleted. Rep. Richardson would not answer questions, but her office supplied this statement:

The 37th Congressional District, represented by Congresswoman Richardson has adequate funding to carry out the official duties of her office through the end of the 112th Congress.  The internal email referenced a single line item budgeted for mass mailings and not the MRA budget as a whole. 


UC Riverside to host congressional debate following presidential debate telecast

John Tavaglione

UC Riverside Extension

John Tavaglione is a longtime member of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. He is running for Congress in the 41st District.

Mark Takano

UC Riverside Extension

Mark Takano is a Democrat running for Congress in the 41st District. He is a teacher and trustee in the Riverside Community College District.

U.C. Riverside Extension will host a double-headed political debate for Inland Empire residents on Oct. 3, starting with a live telecast of the presidential debate on a big-screen TV, followed by a live, in-person debate between candidates for Congress representing Riverside's 41st District.

The Obama-Romney debate kicks off at 6 p.m. Wednesday and will be shown at the UCR Extension Center, 1200 University Ave. The 7:30 p.m. debate between Republican candidate John Taviglione and Democrat Mark Takano will be moderated by Marcia McQuern, former editor and publisher of The Press-Enterprise.

Tavaglione and Takano are running to represent the district that covers Riverside, Perris, Moreno Valley, Jurupa Valley and surrounding areas. Tavaglione got about 4,000 more votes than Takano in the primary election, and the open district race is seen as one of the most competitive in the state.

The 41st is a new, open Congressional district whose boundaries were drawn by the nonpartisan citizens redistricting commission. The person elected will be the first Riverside resident to represent the area in Congress since the early 1990s.

The free event is sponsored by the Riverside League of Women Voters, AARP, The Press-Enterprise, the Latino Network, the NAACP Riverside Branch and The Group. RSPV are required; call 951-827-4105.

The event is part of the UCR Extension Windows on the World program.