Two House Dems endorse against ex-colleague Joe Baca in California race

Two House Democrats have endorsed Redlands, Calif., Mayor Pete Aguilar (D) in his race against former Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) and Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.), a sign of lingering tensions between Baca and some of his former colleagues.

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The Democrats are Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Calif.), a freshman who defeated Baca in a sometimes-nasty election last fall, and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), who accused Baca of calling her a "whore" in 2007. 

That led to Sanchez's resignation from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which Baca chaired at the time.

Baca told The Hill that he never made the statement about Sanchez. 

Negrete McLeod and Baca have long had a tense relationship. After starting in politics as a field staffer for the congressman, she won a state Senate election over one of Baca's sons in 2006. 

His decision to run against her in a safely Democratic district rather than against Miller last election irked some Democrats both in California and nationally, as the district Miller eventually won included more of his old district but was more competitive politically.

Both congresswomen focused on Aguilar in their endorsements.

"Pete Aguilar is a proven public servant and problem-solver who puts the interests of Inland Empire residents first. I am proud to endorse Pete Aguilar for Congress," said Negrete McLeod in a statement.

"With so many vital programs coming under attack in Washington, Pete Aguilar represents the kind of leadership the Inland Empire needs, someone who will put average families and our seniors first," Sanchez said.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) recruited Aguilar to run against Miller again this election. 

Aguilar finished a disappointing third place in California's all-candidate primary in 2012 and didn't make the general election, allowing Miller to run against another Republican. 

Baca, who's long made it clear he wanted to return to Congress, decided after the DCCC had recruited Aguilar that he would run for the district rather than against Negrete McLeod.

Miller is the GOP's most vulnerable incumbent. President Obama won the district by 17 percentage points last election, and this time around it's unlikely that Miller will be able to avoid a Democrat in the general election.

Aguilar also announced endorsements from a vice chairman of the state Democratic Party, a local leader of the AFL-CIO, the mayor of Rialto and a state assemblywoman.

This story was updated at 3:55 p.m. to reflect that Negrete McLeod's victory over Baca's son was in a state Senate race. 

This story was corrected on May 9. Baca was not ousted as chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. 

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