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Portantino struggles to find political footing

December 14, 2011|By Mark Kellam, mark.kellam@latimes.com

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) — struggling to find his political footing in a changing landscape of legislative districts — is moving into a gray area, stuck between a potential congressional bid and what would be an uncomfortable challenge for long-time political ally state Sen. Carol Liu’s seat.

Portantino, who will be termed out of office next year, has so far refused to say which way he intends to go, but his two-track approach could also put him at odds with some donors, who contributed $310,000 to support a challenge to unseat Rep. David Dreier, a longtime San Gabriel Valley Republican.

That money could instead help finance a campaign to unseat Liu, another La Cañada Democrat who remains popular with local party members.

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Mary Urquhart, a South Pasadena resident long active in regional politics, donated $2,750 to the congressional campaign fund, but said she would not have if she knew he would end up running against Liu.

“I think he’s wonderful, a very good public servant,” Urquhart said, referring to Portantino’s opposition to the Long Beach (710) Freeway extension and other issues. “But I’m supporting Carol Liu. I’m not requesting the money back, but I would not have donated it if I thought that was how it was going to be used.”

Both Democrats, in addition to challenger Ameenah Fuller, are seeking endorsements from two local Democratic organizations for the Senate seat in the new 25th District, which includes Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena as well as La Cañada.

The earliest candidates for state office can declare their intent to run is Feb. 13. But Portantino said he’s waiting for a decision from the California Supreme Court regarding the revised senate district map before committing to a particular race.

Liu’s office did not return calls requesting comment on the potential match-up.

Earlier this year, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission settled on new legislative district maps for the 2012 election. But since it appears a referendum regarding the senate districts may head to voters, the state Supreme Court is holding up implementation of the new map.

If Portantino does challenge Liu, he may have to strike a delicate balance in an area where there is a lot of overlap among their constituencies and donors.

Even Liu’s husband, Michael Peevey, gave $200 to Portantino’s congressional campaign.

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