"Your endorsement means the world to me. I couldn't see myself running without your support," Torres said to Democratic delegates supporting her candidacy at an endorsement caucus.
Torres and supporters went to her Fontana campaign headquarters after winning the endorsement. Her headquarters is inside a Sierra Avenue cluster of auto repair shops where volunteers spent Saturday preparing for the phone calls and canvassing they hope will lead to victory.
"We need a representative that is going to be in the trenches with the community, working to address the real issues, which are huge job losses that we have had, and the issue with home foreclosures in the area," Torres said in an interview at her campaign office.
Torres, whose local Assembly office is in Chino, was reelected to her third term in the Assembly in November and is now among the six candidates competing for a seat in the state Legislature's upper house. Whoever wins will fill out the remainder of Gloria Negrete-McLeod's term, which expires in 2014.
McLeod left the state Senate earlier this month to serve in Congress.
The field includes four Democrats and two Republicans. Only two of the Democrats - Torres and Rialto Unified School District board member Joanne Gilbert - asked for the California Democratic Party's endorsement.
The other two Democrats are Ontario Councilman Paul Vincent Avila and San Bernardino County Treasurer/Tax Collector Larry Walker.
The two Republicans are Ontario Mayor Paul Leon and Pomona planning commissioner Kenny Coble.
Democratic Party delegates voting in Saturday's endorsement caucus met at Teamsters Union Local 166.
Torres and Gilbert gave two-minute speeches before the day's ballots were collected and tallied one by one.
Standing with supporters behind the seated rows of delegates at the union hall, Torres beamed while the votes added up in her favor and it became clear she would run away with the endorsement.
If Gilbert, however, was phased by the lopsided tally, however, she didn't show it as she exited the event.
"Right now, it doesn't affect my plans at all. I was late getting into the race and I understood I was playing catch up," she said.
Among notables' votes counted at the Bloomington meeting, former Rep. Joe Baca and Rialto Councilman Joe Baca Jr. supported Torres.
Former Assemblywoman Wilmer Amina Carter's name was read in support of Gilbert's candidacy.
McLeod, whose election to Congress made the special election possible, has endorsed Walker's candidacy.
The 32nd Senate District, where pre-redistricting boundaries are still in effect - stretches from the Pomona to San Bernardino areas. Voter registration leans significantly toward the Democratic Party.
When McLeod last ran for the state Senate in 2010, Democrats claimed nearly 50 percent of registered voters.
But an overwhelming voter registration advantage is not enough to guarantee a Democratic candidate's victory.
For inland Democrats, last June's Primary Election for the 31st Congressional District ended in a bitter lesson as two Republicans - Rep. Gary Miller and then state Sen. Bob Dutton - went on to the general election after four Democrats split their party's vote.
The 31st district spans from Rancho Cucamonga to Redlands and its voter registration tilts toward the Democrats. Nonetheless, California's new election system ignores party affiliation in primaries and the top two finishers advance to the general election.
That's why the Republican Miller represents the 31st Congressional District following his triumph over Dutton.
California Democratic Party regional director John A. Smith led Saturday's endorsement meeting. Although he said it's not his place to tell anyone not to run for office, he said Democrats need to be cognizant of the risk of repeating history.
"Think if you want to keep your campaign going or drop out," Smith advised before the balloting took place.
Gilbert, however, was undeterred by the risks of splitting Democrats' votes.
"That's a possibility, but I'm not dropping out, if that's the question," she said.
The special election's primary is scheduled for March 12. If no candidate wins a majority, the top two finishers will go on to a general election set for May 14.
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