Former Inland congressman Joe Baca speaks at a 31st Congressional District candidate forum in this 2013 file photo (File photo by Stan Lim, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG).

By Jeff Horseman | | The Press-Enterprise
February 27, 2018 at 3:25 pm

Another election year, another comeback attempt for former Inland Rep. Joe Baca.

Baca, who represented the Inland Empire in Congress for more than a decade, has filed papers to run as a Democrat against Rep. Norma Torres, D-Pomona, in California’s 35th Congressional District, which includes Pomona, Ontario, Montclair, Chino and parts of Fontana and Rialto.

It’s the third congressional run for Baca, 71, since losing re-election in 2012 in that district to fellow Democrat Gloria Negrete McLeod.

Baca, whose nickname is “Working Joe,” ran for the 31st Congressional District seat currently held by Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Redlands in 2014, and again in 2016 — that time as a Republican. He didn’t make it past the June primary either time.

He changed his voter registration from Republican to no party preference in August 2016 and switched back to the Democrats in January 2018, according to the San Bernardino County elections office.

“I’ve served the district very well as a Democrat. In my heart, I’ve always been a Democrat with a 100 percent voting record for labor,” Baca, who now lives in Fontana, said in a telephone interview Tuesday, Feb. 27.

When he became a Republican in 2015, Baca said: “I’ve always been very conservative. I was a Blue Dog moderate (in Congress) and it falls along my Christian beliefs.”

Torres called Baca “a candidate of convenience.”

“First he was a Democrat, then he cited his ‘core Christian values’ to switch to being a Republican,” Torres said in an emailed statement. “Now he’s back to being a Democrat. That isn’t the kind of consistent leadership we need.”

Baca said his ability to work with lawmakers of all stripes, and his seniority on Capitol Hill, would be an asset to the district.

“The people are very frustrated with what’s going on at the national level,” he said. “They feel the country is not going in the right direction. They see leadership is not voting in the best interests of the country … I want to put people first and work for our district and work for our area.”

He chided Torres as being ineffective. He also criticized her mid-February vote in favor of a bill that critics say will gut the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Torres hit back, wielding Baca’s record on guns and women.

“In the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack and the Parkland High School shooting, now is not the time to elect an A+ NRA-rated candidate to Congress,” her statement said. “As women around the country demand respect and accountability in the #MeToo movement, now is not the time to elect a candidate who belittles and berates women.”

Baca was accused of calling then-Rep. Loretta Sanchez a “whore” – he denied saying that – and later apologized for calling Negrete McLeod a “bimbo” when she left Congress to run unsuccessfully for San Bernardino County supervisor.

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