Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/27/2013 06:58:39 PM PDT
Updated: 04/27/2013 10:48:21 PM PDT

A chance to pick up a vacant state Senate seat and demonstrate the California Republican Party and their allies are serious about backing Latino candidates may seem like a golden opportunity for the state’s GOP, but the party seems to be setting its sights elsewhere than the 32nd state Senate District.

Ontario Mayor Paul Leon, the Republican Party’s candidate in the special election to succeed Democrat Gloria Negrete-McLeod, has yet to benefit from the same kind of support his Democratic opponent, Assemblywoman Norma Torres, has received. Campaign finance records show Torres is enjoying financial support from Democratic lawmakers up and down the state, combined with support from several business and labor interests.

Leon, by comparison, has generally drawn support from Republicans holding office in the Inland Empire and local business figures.

Torres has collected nearly $548,000 worth of contributions, compared with the nearly $245,000 that Leon has raised.

Leon also has no financial support from the independent expenditure committee that are becoming an increasingly important – if not universally beloved – part of American politics.

Torres, by contrast, has been the beneficiary of $395,5000 in outside spending support for the primary and general election campaigns.

Leon said he has received welcome support from new state GOP Chairman Jim Brulte as well as state Sen. Bob Huff, R-Walnut, and Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills. Leon acknowledged, however, his frustration that his support from Republican interests up and down the state does not match the support Democrats have given to Torres.

To many, the Republican Party’s poor showing in last year’s elections has demonstrated an imperative to motivate Latino and Asian-American candidates and voters. Leon said Republicans have talked about changing the face of their party, but have yet to match those words with action.

“I think it explains itself. There’s no proof in the pudding,” Leon said.

Leon is a moderate Republican who may be best known in the Inland Empire for his advocacy for local control of L.A./Ontario International Airport, currently managed by a Los Angeles city agency, rather than any positions that can easily be described as “liberal” or “conservative.” He said the fundraising situation in the campaign does not change his support for the Republican platform.

“I’m not bitter about any of this. I came into this race with my eyes wide open, that this was a high probability that I would taking this on alone,” Leon said. “It has been me and my friends that believe in me. ”

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