Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Pasadena favorite son

Your CaliBlogger's lived in Pasadena for going on four years now, which, by California standards, makes him a "native".

That being the case I feel obligated to engage in a wee bit of local boosterism.

Pasadena is well known for the parade and the bowl game, and is as well home to Caltech and JPL (sidenote: because of this latter, don't be surprised if you confront a loudmouth standing next to you in line at the Laemmle when he responds that yes, he is a rocket scientist thank you).

And for such a relatively small city (approximately 140,000) Pasadena has been birthplace or home to some remarkable individuals. Actress Sally (yes we really do like you) Field, cooking show grande dame Julia Child, and renowned director Victor Fleming (The Wizard of Oz) were born here.

Jackie Robinson moved here when he was 1 and graduated from Pasadena's John Muir High School before going on to break Major League Baseball's color barrier. And General George S. Patton was born in neighboring San Gabriel, his father serving as Pasadena's first City Attorney.

To this illustrious group we can now add a, perhaps, future president, Bill Richardson.

As it turns out Richardson, who formally announced his candidacy yesterday, was born at Pasadena's venerable Huntington Hospital. Not that he hung out for long. Joel Achenbach writes in the Washington Post:

The Constitution limits the presidency to people born in the United States. Richardson meets that provision only because his father sent his mother by train to California just before she went into labor. He was born in Pasadena, Calif. Then his mother took him promptly back to Mexico City.

"My father had a complex about not having been born in the United States," Richardson said. His father, son of a biologist who collected museum specimens, had been born on a boat heading to Nicaragua. "If my father didn't have this complex, I wouldn't be able to run for president. I wish I'd thanked him. One of the regrets I always have is that I never thanked him."

But despite the self-acknowledged paucity of his SoCal roots ("My roots are about three hours"), it's no surprise that Governor Richardson decided to make his announcement in LA. As Dan Schnur notes in the LA Times:

But Richardson's problem is that Latino voters don't know he's Latino. And although there's no guarantee that they will vote for him simply because of his ethnicity, his trailblazing endeavor would certainly bring him a much greater share of attention from the nation's fastest-growing minority community once they do find out.

So rather than an Iowa cornfield or a New Hampshire gymnasium, or even his home state, which has the largest percentage of Latino residents — 43% — he came to Los Angeles. California's earlier Feb. 5 primary has inflated the importance of the state's role in the nomination process, but the driving force behind Richardson's unusual announcement location is the growing role of Latino voters in American politics.

And despite his short tenure hear in the Rose City, should bill Richardson manage to win the uphill battle he faces for the Democratic presidential nomination, I have no doubt Pasadena will happily claim him as a favorite son.

[P.s. If you haven't yet seen Richardson's terrific (and funny) campaign ads be sure to check them out here.]

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