The legal troubles of suspended L.A. State Senator Ron Calderon, who faces federal public corruption charges, appear to have caused problems for his brother and nephew on election day.
Calderon’s oldest brother, Charles — a former state legislator and longtime figure in L.A. politics — lost his bid to be a superior court judge. Deputy District Attorney Carol Rose, in her first run for public office, soundly defeated Calderon, winning 66 percent of the vote.
Meanwhile, Charles' son, Democratic State Assemblyman Ian Calderon — who represents the 57th District in Southeast L.A. County — finished second in the primary. Republican Rita Topalian garnered 51.5 percent of the vote to Ian Calderon’s 48.5 percent. Normally, a Democratic incumbent in a mostly Democratic district such as the 57th would poll much better. The two now advance to the November general election.
“The Calderon name is mud when it comes to politics in L.A. County, at least for the next couple of years,” said Fernando Guerra, director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University. “Even if you weren’t related but had the Calderon name it would have been a problem.”
A federal grand jury has indicted Ron Calderon and another brother, Tom, on public corruption charges. In Ron’s case, FBI agents allegedly posed as filmmakers seeking to buy his vote and influence in the state capitol. Both Ron and Tom Calderon have pleaded not guilty.
No charges have been filed against Charles or Ian Calderon, and federal prosecutors have not indicated that either is under any sort of investigation.
During the campaign, Topalian sought to capitalize on the Calderons' troubles. Her campaign website has a section devoted to "untangling the web of a powerful Southern California family," with lines connecting Ron and Tom to Charles and Ian.
Ian Calderon said he does not believe the indictments of his uncles played a role in his race: "When it comes to the stuff with Ron and Tom, I don't think it affects me."
The younger Calderon was elected two years ago to the seat once held by his father. He said he won all the Democratic cities in the district and didn't work that hard to garner support in the primary.
"I didn't spend a dime," he said. "We figured we'd see what happened."
He also blamed low voter turnout, which was below 20 percent throughout L.A. County.
"Turnout in my district was only 10 percent," Calderon said. "We had no idea it would be so low."
He did admit it's possible the Sacramento scandal had an effect on his dad's race, because he's Ron and Tom's brother: "He's a lot closer to it than I am."
Guerra said there may have been other factors in Charles Calderon’s loss in a countywide race for the superior court bench.
“His power base was always the Eastside,” said Guerra, who noted Calderon lost earlier races for L.A. County supervisor and California Attorney General. “While the Calderons have been powerful, it was always geographically focused in Montebello and the surrounding cities.”
A spokesman for Charles Calderon said he would not comment for this story.