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Orange County labor leader Julio Perez established front-runner status last weekend in the race for the 69th District Assembly seat, gaining a majority of delegate votes for a party endorsement at February’s state convention in San Diego.

The race for the seat — considered the most Latino Assembly district in California — is also turning into a referendum on the Orange County Democratic Party, with progressives backing Perez as an alternative to the county’s traditionally moderate Democratic politics.

On Jan. 21, Perez also received the support of Rep. Loretta Sanchez, the Democratic Party’s senior elected official in Orange County. The vote comes after an overwhelming vote for Perez by the Orange County Young Democrats earlier this month.

Perez fell short of the 70 percent margin needed for an automatic endorsement at the San Diego convention, allowing party moderates to force a convention floor vote.

Perez won more than half the votes cast, while delegates loyal to state Senator Lou Correa and Assemblyman Jose Solorio voted for no endorsement, as expected.

Orange County Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly won three votes, while Santa Ana City Councilwoman Michele Martinez got one from her colleague, Santa Ana City Councilman Vince Sarmiento.

— NORBERTO SANTANA JR.

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