James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Posted: 12/22/2009 02:47:04 PM PST

Around this time every year, special interest groups in California publish grades for state lawmakers – ranking Assembly members and Senators on how often they stood up for the environment or for business owners or for public schools.

For many lawmakers, it’s an unpleasant part of the holiday season.

“A lot of people just dread the scorecards,” said Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Montclair.

A lot of people, but not her.

Negrete McLeod, who will run for a second four-year Senate term next year, said she doesn’t think much of scorecards and is glad she tends to receiving middling scores from most groups.

“I don’t make everybody happy,” she said. “I don’t score 100 percent on anybody’s card, so I must be doing the right job.”

Some lawmakers – the most liberal and the most conservative – like to show off their perfect scores from some groups. Conservatives like to tout high marks from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, while liberals favor good reviews from the Sierra Club.

Negrete McLeod received low-end marks from both, getting five points out of 15 from the Sierra Club and a 38.8 percent score from Howard Jarvis. That makes her the Sierra Club’s second-lowest scoring Democrat and Howard Jarvis’ second-highest scoring Democrat.

“You can’t get elected and make everybody happy,” she said, rolling her eyes at the mention of legislative scorecards. “I’m comfortable with being labeled a moderate. That’s OK. That’s who I am.

I think I reflect my district.” She said her constituents know her well enough to trust her to make good decisions.

“It comes down to how well people know you and like you, how well they will allow you to make the decision you make on your own rather than party stuff,” she said.

Making those decisions hasn’t inspired any competitors to challenge her in 2010 – not yet at least – but it has, in years past, drawn the ire of her party’s leaders.

In 2007, Negrete McLeod was locked out of her Senate office by then-Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland. She said she was being punished for going to an event that Perata said was off-limits to Democrats.

“That didn’t hurt me here,” she said. “It kind of reinforced my image of being outside of the norm – that I do what I need to do.”

Negrete McLeod calls her district moderate, though she acknowledged that it has been represented by much more liberal Democrats in the past.

Voter registration statistics show that Democrats make up more than 50 percent of registered voters in her 32nd Senate District, while Republicans make up just 27 percent.

But Negrete McLeod said, Democratic or Republican, her constituents are largely middle-class, working families.

“People here go to work, and they expect me to go to work,” she said. “They know you’ve got to make a wage.”

That means she’s hesitant about how some state laws backed by most liberals – specifically A.B. 32, which requires the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions- can potentially hurt businesses.

“I understand how critical it is, clearing the air for everybody’s health,” she said. “But how hard is it going to impact businesses?

With truckers and warehouses throughout her district, Negrete McLeod said she worries about what the environmental law will mean for the movement of goods from Southern California’s ports.

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