Published: 26 May 2012 07:10 PM

Riverside is about to have new representation in the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in two decades.

Last summer’s redistricting process yielded a new Riverside-anchored congressional district with no incumbent, setting the stage for a battle that both Democrats and Republicans say they can win. One thing is all but certain: Voters will send a Riverside resident to Washington.

All but one of several candidates running for the 41st Congressional District live in the city, including frontrunners John Tavaglione and Mark Takano. Tavaglione, a Republican who sits on Riverside County’s board of supervisors, and Takano, a Democrat, teacher and Riverside Community College trustee, are widely expected to move on to November’s election after next week’s primary.

The contest ranks among California’s most contentious congressional races, with leaders of both parties in Washington viewing the seat as a major priority in the battle for control of the House. But it also has special meaning for a city that hasn’t had a resident in Congress since the late Rep. George Brown lived there for a time in the 1980s and early 1990s.

“Either Takano or Tavaglione will be indeed somebody who has grown up in this place, lived in this place,” said Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge, who added that the connection would likely keep the city’s welfare a major priority. “For someone who’s grown up here, there’s always some kind of memory, a story of place.”

The 41st district also includes Moreno Valley, Jurupa Valley and Perris. Two other Republicans — Vince Sawyer, a construction supervisor and carpenter from Riverside, and George Pearne, a salesperson from Moreno Valley — also are running. So is Anna Nevenic, of Riverside, a registered nurse and Democrat.


Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, has represented Riverside for two decades. And while not from Riverside, he has kept his office there and spends most weekends back in the district, which also currently includes Corona, Norco and a sizable part of Orange County.

“Calvert clearly was a local,” said Loveridge, a Democrat who has endorsed the GOP’s Tavaglione. “Ken was not a congressman at a distance. He was somebody who was here in town and accessible.”

But the state’s redistricting commission drew Calvert into a new district that stretches south from Corona, and he will no longer represent Riverside.

Takano, a teacher since 1988, ran against Calvert twice in the 1990s, nearly beating him in 1992. For him, the new seat presents perhaps his best chance yet at a seat beneath the Capitol Rotunda. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district by a margin of 42 percent to 35 percent, while 18 percent of voters have no party preference. Five percent are registered with the Green Party or other small parties.

“If elected to Congress, I will be a voice for the hardworking families of Riverside County — folks who play by the rules, do what’s expected of them and who deserve a government that is there for them when they need it,” Takano wrote in answer to one of a series of questions posed to the candidates in a questionnaire compiled by The Press-Enterprise.

Takano’s legislative priorities would include pressing for local infrastructure and transportation projects, protecting Medicare from GOP efforts to overhaul the system and ending George W. Bush-era tax cuts for higher earners.

Tavaglione, meanwhile, would come to Washington after 18 years on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. In that time, he earned a reputation as a moderate Republican. As president of the California State Association of Counties, he played a central role in last year’s state budget negotiations and, to the ire of some in his party, supported Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to extend temporary tax increases.

In Washington, Tavaglione said reduced spending and changes to the tax code are needed to lower the federal deficit.

“Unlike our current Congress, I have made the difficult decisions required to balance every county budget,” he wrote in his questionnaire. “In addition to cutting costs, Congress needs to close tax loopholes which cost the nation billions more.”

Both Tavaglione and Takano vowed to fight for UC Riverside’s planned medical school.

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