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thedesertsun.com | Ron Oden to run for Assembly April 1, 2006

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thedesertsun.com | Ron Oden to run for Assembly

 Ron Oden to run for Assembly
Popular mayor sets sights on seat held by Republican Garcia

 

DID YOU KNOW?

Ron Oden was the Democratic nominee for Congress in 2000. The popular Mary Bono defeated him – garnering 113,667 votes to Oden's 73,203.

ABOUT THE 80TH

The 80th Assembly District includes parts of the Coachella Valley and all of Imperial Country.

THE MATCHUP

Ron Oden will announce during two news conferences Thursday in Palm Springs and El Centro that he plans to run for the 80th Assembly District. He has been mayor of Palm Springs since 2003 and has served on the City Council since 1994.He will have to defeat fellow Democrat Steve Clute, a Palm Desert resident and former member of the California Assembly, in the June primary.The winner of that primary will then face off against the Republican incumbent Bonnie Garcia in November. Assemblywoman since 2002, Garcia has introduced legislation to increase the nutritional value of school lunches, strengthen sex offender registration, extend teacher probation periods and raise awareness of AIDS among women.

Stefanie Frith and Cindy Uken
The Desert Sun
March 8, 2006 March 8, 2006


PALM SPRINGS – Mayor Ron Oden will run for the 80th State Assembly District seat now held by Republican Bonnie Garcia but will not step down as mayor unless he wins the election.Oden, a Democrat, paid a filing fee and received nomination papers from the Riverside County Registrar of Voters office on Tuesday.

He needs to collect 40 signatures by Friday.

As first reported Tuesday on thedesertsun.com, he called each of the Palm Springs council members around noon Tuesday to tell them of his decision.

Oden did not return several calls for comment Tuesday and will not speak publicly until he makes his formal announcement during two news conferences Thursday, said Hal Ball, Oden's political consultant and adviser.

"This certainly addresses the issue of the rumor of him resigning," Ball said. "He will continue to fulfill his duties and responsibilities as the mayor of Palm Springs. There is no truth whatsoever to the rumor."

Councilman Chris Mills said Oden was clear that he would not leave the mayor's office unless he wins the seat in November. He must first face off against Democrat Steve Clute in June. The primary winner will then go up against Garcia for the 80th Assembly District, which oversees much of the Coachella Valley and Imperial Country.

On Tuesday afternoon, Clute was out gathering signatures and said he was eager for the primary.

"I go into this thing regardless of who the primary opponent may be," he said. "I go into it believing that I'm going to be the candidate who has the best opportunity to win in November. That's just the way I approach it."

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Garcia said she welcomes Oden in the race and also alluded to the anticipated June primary."I'm very pleased that they are going to have a food fight," she said.

She went on to say that she believes she has done a good job representing the people of her district.

"I believe that I will have the support of the constituency again," Garcia said. "Isn't it a great country? Anybody can run for office?"

Mills, who in November won a second term, said Oden will have his hands full as both mayor and an Assembly candidate.

"Running for office is a very time-consuming job," Mills said. "Having just done it for a local office, I can't imagine what it would be like on a state level."

This isn't the first time Oden has run for a major office. Oden made an unsuccessful bid against Rep. Mary Bono in the 1990s.

But since then, the charismatic Oden, who was elected mayor in 2003, becoming one of the first openly gay black mayors in the country, has become somewhat of a celebrity in his own right. He has been recognized nationally and internationally by gay and civil rights groups and said last summer he was being courted by elected leaders throughout California to run for state office.

Mills said Oden, 55, will have a much better shot at an Assembly seat now, especially since the district lines were redrawn to be more Coachella Valley-centric.

"I think he has more name recognition this time," Mills said. "The district is more concentrated. That's a big advantage to when he ran before. It's a good thing he's young."

John Williams, owner of INNduldge, a boutique hotel in Palm Springs, said Tuesday he was supported of Oden's bid for office and that Oden has done a lot for the communities in Palm Springs. He contends that Oden would make a great candidate against Garcia.

"As a gay man, I (used to feel) there was a lot of tension," said Williams, who ran for City Council in November. "But he has brought the communities together. This is exciting news."

Mayor Pro Tem Ginny Foat said she hadn't had time to let Oden's decision "digest" after receiving a call from the mayor around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"He has political aspirations," she said. "So it's up to him."

If Oden wins the primary against Clute and the election against Garcia, then the mayor will step down. In that case, the City Council will need to pick an interim mayor, Foat said.

Then an election will need to take place to pick a new mayor, she said.

"More power to him," said Mills. "I wish him the best of luck."