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Assemblymember Patty Lopez

Freshman Assembly member Patty Lopez, D-San Fernando, left, helps her mother, Maria de Jesus, with her hair before the start of the Assembly session on Dec. 1, 2014. Lopez defeated incumbent Raul Bocanegra, D-Los Angeles by 466 votes. (Photo: Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

News of the late night firing of a top Democratic staffer does not only have political watchers scratching their heads but, unfortunately for Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, it has them scratching below the surface as well. What Sacramento is finding out about the newly elected Assemblywoman is troubling, to say the least.

Lopez went from community gadfly to the State Assembly when she won a surprising victory against incumbent assemblyman and rising political star, Raul Bocanegra, this past November in the San Fernando Valley's 39th Assembly District. Lopez was quickly adopted by activists as a David who beat a political Goliath. But it turns out that what seems too good to be true may indeed turn out to be too good to be true. Unlike grassroots progressives like Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia who have successfully pitched stones at political giants, Lopez may not have as steady a political aim.

After the rush of dreams that seems to blind the political class on election night the crush of facts around Patty Lopez is a rude awakening. Lopez won as a Democrat, while her two top and most influential advisors are Republicans. The advisers, David Hernandez and Ricardo Benitez, are not just your run-of-mill GOPers. No, they are firebrand anti-gay, anti gun control champions who seem to relish the fights brought on by right wing talk show hosts.

For Lopez adviser David Hernandez, the high-profile pro-gun effort was not his first in the Right's spotlight as he has distinguished himself among anti-immigrant forces as a leading advocate for the crime-ridden militia group, "The Minutemen".

Recently, Lopez joined her Tea Party-like advisors in an effort to free an American Marine who had broken Mexican law by being in possession of a large amount of guns and ammo on the south side of the border. The effort to free the Marine was championed nationally by anti-gun control groups and Rush Limbaugh.

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For Lopez adviser David Hernandez, the high-profile pro-gun effort was not his first in the Right's spotlight as he has distinguished himself among anti-immigrant forces as a leading advocate for the crime-ridden militia group, "The Minutemen". Hernandez, in fact, has adopted and publicly spewed the Minuteman dogma that Chicano studies is an indoctrination.

However, Lopez herself is not clear of Fox News talking points. In addition to her jaunt to Mexico to free the gun-toting serviceman, she has posted anti "Obamacare" passages on the Internet that have as late been scrubbed.

It is safe to say that most of the voters in her district are unaware of the assemblywoman's ties to the most virulent parts of California's failed ultraconservative movement. However, many of California's political insiders have been becoming aware of her influencers over the last few days. Candidate Lopez had attempted to distance herself from her campaign founder and treasurer, David Hernandez, when the media began to ask questions about him briefly last year. However, times have changed and Assemblywoman Lopez has been taking militia supporter Hernandez to high-profile events at the state's capital.

The Sacramento political class had been readily adopting Lopez when it was disclosed last week that she had fired a key, respected Democratic staffer. The now unemployed worker was her newly hired Chief of Staff, Alfonso Sanchez. Sanchez, who has a blue ribbon resume in Democratic circles, was reportedly unceremoniously dumped less than 30 days after being hired. The Sanchez firing underscores the fact that Lopez had just hired one of her right wing advisors, Ricardo Benitez, to a key post. Benitez has run as a Republican and lost scores of races, including a recent attempt to thwart leading Democrat Bob Hertzberg.

The firing of Sanchez and the hiring of Benitez has tongues wagging in Sacramento. The gossip mill has created a level of scrutiny on Lopez that she may find difficult to set aside. As a political insider told me this weekend, "it turns out that there may be a gritty side to the story of Patty Lopez and she literally hired controversy and then fired the one person that had the credibility to defend her."

Mario Solis-Marich

Mario Solis-Marich
MarioWire

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