Joe Baca

Joe Baca

By Leslie Parrilla, San Bernardino Sun
Posted: 10/26/14, 8:20 PM PDT | Updated: 49 secs ago

FONTANA >> At first blush, it may appear that political veterans such as former Rep. Joe Baca have a slam dunk chance at winning local races like the mayoral seat he is vying for, having served at the federal level.

But some political experts say the rare move of seasoned politicians returning to their district for a seat in local elections doesn’t necessarily guarantee them a home run, as some might assume. Their political pedigree may carry a fair amount of clout and help them sweep up a solid block of loyal local voters, but overlooked disadvantages lurk alongside accomplished lawmakers that may surprise them about their home turf.

“The thing you’ll have is this mix of money and name recognition and experience in running campaigns, which will be an unambiguous plus for him,” said Shaun Bowler, a professor at UC Riverside who specializes in voting behavior. “But being associated with DC is not always a good thing.”

The unusual return of a matured congressman like Baca running in a local race, attempting to unseat long-time Mayor Acquanetta Warren on Nov. 4, poses a few challenges when analyzing voting behaviors, Bowler said. Voters love experience, but some will weigh local experience over expertise in Washingtonian ways.

“Some voters will say, ‘it’s not really relevant. … I need someone who knows how to meet a payroll, and not someone who knows how to draft a farm subsidy… We don’t need people in high places, but we need the trash picked up… Then it becomes a different sort of debate… You know how to get things done in Washington, but we don’t want that here.”

Baca, 67, is in Fontana after serving seven terms in Congress representing part of San Bernardino County, then subsequently losing two bids for a congressional seat in 2012 and 2014. He has also served in the state Assembly and state Senate.

He squares off with Mayor Warren, who has a strong backing of her own, as the city’s first female and black mayor, having served as mayor since 2010 and on the City Council since 2002.

Term limits often force state legislators back to county races, but the move to a city seat is unusual for a Congress alumnus.

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