The June 5 primaries include a race in California that could eventually send a former credit union employee to Capitol Hill.
Democrat Pete Aguilar, former Director of Governmental Relations for the $715 million Arrowhead Credit Union, is running for the House of Representatives in the 31st District, Southern California’s Inland Empire. Aguilar is the leading Democrat in the primary, and faces his stiffest competition from current Republican Representative Gary Miller, who chose not to run in his redrawn home district in Orange County against incumbent Ed Royce (R). Aguilar was appointed to the Redlands, Calif. city council in 2006 during his Arrowhead tenure.
“Not only is he a former credit union employee, but he’s somebody who understands the importance of a strong political presence for credit unions. He could easily be a future super star for credit unions in Washington,” said Bob Arnould, senior vice president of governmental affairs at the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues.
California credit unions have been supporting Aguilar, Arnould said, making individual donations and contributing to the League’s Super PAC, Restore Community. Local supporters in the district have also been going door to door campaigning for him.
“As far as I know, this would be the first true credit union person elected to Congress, so obviously we see this as a race of national potential for credit unions,” Arnould said.
The California league has also been active in fundraising efforts for Democratic incumbent Congressman Brad Sherman, who faces a tough race against fellow Democratic Representative Howard Berman. Sherman and Berman will likely both survive the primary and face each other in November thanks to California’s new “top-two primary” rules, in which the two highest vote-getters will advance to the general election, regardless of party. Arnould said between the PAC and individual donations, the league has raised approximately $90,000 for Sherman’s campaign.
“Many donations were individual dollars because he does have strong relationships with credit union employees. He’s been very visible,” Arnould said.
Sherman introduced the Capital Access for Small Businesses and Jobs Act, H.R. 3993, in February. He has also been supportive of efforts to increase the member business lending cap, signing on as a co-sponsor of H.R. 1418, and has pledged to help preserve credit unions’ tax exempt status.
Key primaries will take place June 5 in California, New Mexico, New Jersey, Montana and South Dakota. In New Mexico, CUNA is endorsing Democratic Representative Martin Heinrich, running for an open Senate seat left by the retiring Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), who has served in the Senate for nearly 30 years.
Heinrich is a co-sponsor of H.R. 1418, and even mentioned credit union member business lending in a debate last weekend, said CUNA Vice President of Political Affairs Trey Hawkins.