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Local elected leaders call on Calderon to resign

State Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, at podium, led a group of Southeast L.A. elected officials who are calling for State Senator Ron Calderon to resign.
State Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, at podium, led a group of Southeast L.A. elected officials who are calling for State Senator Ron Calderon to resign.
Frank Stoltze/KPCC

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In a Wednesday morning news conference outside Bell Gardens City Hall, a group of 15 local elected officials urged embattled State Senator Ron Calderon to resign. Calderon, who represents a Southeast L.A. County district that includes Bell Gardens, is the subject of a federal investigation.

An affidavit in the case, which was recently made public by Al Jazeera America, accuses Calderon of accepting bribes from an FBI undercover agent.

The leaders calling for Calderon to step down included Norwalk Mayor Luigi Vernola, Downey Mayor Mario Guerra, and State Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia.

"The public must be able to trust their elected officials to do the right thing,” Guerra said. “Ron Calderon has violated the public's trust and does not deserve to represent the honest, hard working people of this district.”

Garcia, whose Assembly district overlaps with Calderon's Senate district, last week was the first elected official to call for Calderon's resignation.

"A lot of us have worked hard to rebuild the trust, rebuild the communication with the public to make sure we have a relationship," Garcia said Wednesday. "And this is now jeopardizing our ability to work with the public."

Calderon has said the charges against him are false and that the leaked affidavit is causing people to presume guilt. On Wednesday he released a statement saying Garcia "has assumed the role of judge and jury by calling for my resignation."

In June, 2012, Garcia defeated Calderon's brother, Tom, in the primary election for the Assembly seat once held by Ron Calderon. Guerra, the Downey mayor, is seeking Ron Calderon's Senate seat in the 2014 election. 

The Calderon dynasty includes another brother, Charles, who was the first of the family members to hold statewide office, and his son, Ian, who currently serves in the Assembly. 

Wednesday's call for Calderon's resignation came one day after the Senate Rules Committee stripped Calderon of his committee assignments, including his chairmanship of the powerful insurance committee.

"He's wounded terribly," said Jaime Regalado, emeritus professor of political science at Cal State Los Angeles.  "There's no question about that." 

Calderon said the Senate leaders’ action against him "sends a risky and unsuitable message regarding our fundamental constitutional rights and the presumption of innocence."

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said the committee was making no judgments about Calderon's alleged conduct and that the actions were temporary, pending the outcome of the FBI investigation.

Rather, he said lawmakers were acting in the interest of the institution.

"Our job here is not to determine whether or not there has been any violation of criminal law," Steinberg said. "Our job is to uphold the standard of conduct of the Senate."

The elected officials on Wednesday were careful to point out that Calderon has not been charged, but they are dismayed at the larger effect, particularly on Latino politicians.  

“Here we have an elected official who is Latino, and we’re getting judged based on the actions of this individual,” said South Gate mayor Gil Hurtado.

Regalado said there is significance to this anti-Calderon outrage coming from his geographic power base: "Elected officials, even small towns and small cities, when they are amassed as a collective demanding something then the press listens and politicians also listen to that."

But Bell Gardens Mayor Daniel Crespo is under no illusions that Calderon, who has wielded power for so long, will heed their call to step down.

“He won’t," Crespo said. "He’s too cocky for that.”