The controversy over a stalled effort to overturn a state ban on affirmative action spilled into a hot race for Congress this week when six Democratic state legislators rescinded their endorsements of state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance).
In a March 25 letter mailed to Lieu's congressional campaign office, the legislators asked their colleague to "remove our names from your list of endorsements for Congress."
As of Wednesday evening, the names no longer were listed under the endorsement page on Lieu's campaign website.
The letter was signed by Lieu state Senate colleagues Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens, Norma Torres of Pomona and Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles and by Assembly members Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, Anthony Rendon of Lakewood and Jose Medina of Riverside.
Lieu is running in the 18-candidate race to succeed Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), who is retiring after four decades in Congress.
Among his better known rivals for the strongly Democratic 33rd District are former Los Angeles city controller and councilwoman Wendy Greuel and journalist and former radio talk show host Matt Miller, both Demcorats, and spiritual teacher and bestselling author Marianne Williamson, who is not registered with a political party.
The letter rescinding the endorsements says in part:
"As lifelong Democrats, we support the core democratic values of inclusion and diversity and we expect the candidates we support will share these values. Our constituents depend on us to take even the most divisive issues and use our leadership to help bring people together and guide the path toward progress.
"At this point, we cannot in good conscience endorse a candidate who does not share that perspective."
The letter did not mention the affirmative action matter but it came after a rift broke into the open over a derailed effort to overturn the state's ban on consideration of race in public higher education.
The issue caused friction among the Democratic Party's Latinos and African Americans, who wanted to overturn the ban, and Asians, including Lieu, who helped shelve the measure. Mitchell is African American; the other five letter signers are Latino.
The Lieu campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter.
[Updated noon PDT April 3, 2014: Lieu's campaign issued the following statement:
"I have fought my whole political life to ensure that inclusion and opportunity for all communites remains paramount in all decisions we make. I view every action I take through that lens.
"To distort my position into anything other than that is fundamentally unfair."]
Last month Lieu won the backing of the California Democratic Party and has been battling with Greuel for endorsements from community leaders and elected officials.