It’s official.

State Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-Marina del Rey) has declared his intention to seek the state Senate seat vacated by the late Sen. Jenny Oropeza.

“I would like to continue to represent the community to the best of my ability,” Lieu told The Argonaut. “Sen. Jenny Oropeza was my friend and she was also a fantastic senator.”

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will call a special election after the incoming Legislature is seated early next month.

Oropeza passed away Oct. 20 due to complications from an abdominal blood clot. Her name remained on the Nov. 2 ballot, as it was too late to remove it in time for the election, according to state law.

Oropeza cruised to victory, winning 58 percent of the vote over Republican John Stammreich and Libertarian David Ruskin.

There was speculation for several weeks that Lieu, who is being termed out of the Assembly after three terms, would run for the open 28th Senate District seat. Following Lieu’s announcement, some of the potential contenders for the state Senate seat dropped out of the running and endorsed him.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who was considering a run for Oropeza’s seat, has thrown her support behind the assemblyman.

“I’ve received so much encouragement about the possibility of my becoming a candidate in the 28th Senate District,” said Hahn. “After considering it, I’ve decided not to run and throw my support and endorsement to Assemblymember Ted Lieu, who I believe will be the very best representative for our area.”

Hahn joins several other local elected officials, including Rep.-elect Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) and Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who have endorsed the assemblyman.

“I’m enthusiastically supporting Ted Lieu,” the councilman said. “I supported my good friend Jenny Oropeza when she first ran for the seat because she was a strong, feisty candidate, and with Ted it’s an easier choice for me.”

Stammreich announced Nov. 6 on his Web site that he would not enter into the next election cycle against Lieu or any other potential candidate.

“After discussing the opportunities available to me with supporters at the national, state and local levels, I have decided to withdraw from the upcoming special election for the 28th state Senate District and focus on the upcoming redistricting of the congressional and legislative seats throughout the state of California to determine my next personal campaign,” Stammreich wrote.

He suggested that the district’s demographics, which largely skew Democratic, might have been a factor is his decision not to enter the special election fray.

“While I would likely be the most fiscally conservative candidate in this special election, the currently configured district may not yet be ready for a candidate whose focus is saving private sector jobs and small businesses, or forcing Sacramento to reduce its excessive spending,” the Republican contender added.

Lieu knows the district well. His 53rd Assembly District seat, soon to be occupied by Marina del Rey resident Betsy Butler, shares much of the territory of the 28th. Both legislative districts include Playa del Rey, Marina del Rey and Mar Vista. The state Senate district also includes Venice, Del Rey and Westchester.

“Sen. Oropeza and I worked on a number of issues together, including the expansion of the Metro Green Line to Los Angeles International Airport as well as protecting the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve,” Lieu noted. “I want to continue the great work that Sen. Oropeza began in these two important areas.”

Current constituents also expressed their hope to see the assemblyman take over Oropeza’s Senate seat.

“After the recent, sad loss of our state Sen. Jenny Oropeza, my wife Joan and I could not imagine a more qualified candidate than Ted to now run for Jenny’s vacant seat,” said Martin Rubin, who has worked with Lieu on a variety of topics related to the Santa Monica Airport. “He has proven to be a very smart, capable and fair-minded state representative.

“We strongly endorse Ted and we would be grateful to have the opportunity to continue to work with him on further moving the ball forward with regards to Santa Monica Airport issues.”

Friends of the Ballona Wetlands Executive Director Lisa Fimiani believes that the wetlands will have an attentive advocate in Lieu. “He has been a very loyal friend to us,” Fimiani said. “We wish him well (in his state Senate campaign).”

Fimiani said having someone in office who knows the needs and concerns of the constituency is a big advantage.

“We have a good relationship with Ted and that is very important in being able to communicate our needs,” she said.

Rosendahl, who has worked with Lieu on a variety of topics, praised him for his work on the Santa Monica and Los Angeles International airports, as well as the Ballona Wetlands.

“He has been a great partner for me, and he’s very easy to work with,” the councilman said. “And in my job I know how important strong partnerships mean.

“I think he’ll be a tremendous state senator.”

Stammreich appeared to harbor bitter feelings after losing the state Senate race. On his Web site, he alluded to a belief that the opposition party had worked to create the opportunity for a Democrat to win a special election following Oropeza’s untimely death.

“The California Democratic Party fought hard to force the South Bay into a costly special election, which was supported by every Democratic candidate who now enters this race,” Stammreich claimed. “Each will have to explain how they can be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money while defending the diversion of funds away from other Los Angeles County services to keep this district temporarily Democratic.”

The election filing period will not close for several weeks. Other candidates could still enter the race, and Lieu is not taking any chances.

“Even after the close of the filing period, I plan to run a strong campaign,” he said.

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