May 23, 2003

Bustamante Weighs Possible Campaign for Governor

By Juan Esparza Loera
Vida en el Valle

Will he or won’t he? That is the question everyone seems to be asking Lt. Gov. Cruz M. Bustamante these days.

At stake could be an historic moment in Latino politics if Bustamante makes a bid for governor in 2006 after he completes his second term as lieutenant governor.

The 50-year-old Bustamante isn’t committing to a run that is certain to bring out well-financed Democrats like Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer and state Treasurer Phil Angelides, but the Dinuba native is sure talking like a candidate.

“We’re going to be looking over the next couple of years if it’s available,” Bustamante told Vida en el Valle last Friday evening as he hosted about 1,400 at the Fresno Convention Center for a May Madness Celebration.

“We have to do the business of politics like a business. We have to make sure that everything is ready and available to be able to do it,” said Bustamante about a possible gubernatorial campaign.

But first, he will earn his college degree Saturday, May 17, from Fresno State University. Bustamante, who will get his bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, participated in the university’s regular graduation ceremony and also in the Latino ceremony that evening.

A Bustamante candidacy would look to the ever-emerging Latino community for support and financing. However, it will be up to Bustamante to light a fire to ignite the type of support that could make him the nation’s second Latino governor. (New México Gov. Bill Richardson is the only Latino serving as governor today).

“The (Latino) community is going to have to be united,” said Bustamante. “I’m traveling up and down the state to see if they want to or if they believe I have the ability to unite them and be able to get them to vote in an historic adventure, an historic effort like becoming governor.”

Friday’s event gave local people a chance to speculate about Bust-amante’s political future. Few people doubt that Bustamante, California’s first statewide elected Latino in more than a century, won’t make a bid for governor.

Among those who believe Bust-amante has a good shot at becoming governor is state Sen. Liz Figueroa, D-San Jose.

“People get excited about him because we’ve never had a Latino governor since a Mexican governor re-established our state constitution,” said Figueroa, who has announced her candidacy for lieutenant governor. “He’s also of the people, for the people. El corazón y los principios de Cruz (Cruz’s heart and principles) make it very evident that he does not forget where he comes from.”

Gilbert Flores, a former Delano City Councilmember and longtime supporter of the United Farm Workers, thinks Bustamante has more than a fighting chance to become governor.

“He will win. One of the keys will be the Hispanic community, which has been gaining in strength,” said Flores. “Everyone’s gearing up for him to run.”

Gilbert Flores, a former Delano City Councilmember and longtime supporter of the United Farm Workers, thinks Bustamante has more than a fighting chance to become governor.

“He will win. One of the keys will be the Hispanic community, which has been gaining in strength,” said Flores. “Everyone’s gearing up for him to run.”

Bustamante says financing a campaign will be critical, but not as difficult for him as some in the media make it out to be.

“I may not come from a wealthy family, and my community may not be wealthy, but there are 450,000 Latino-owned businesses in California,” Bustamante explained. “If each one of them gave me $100, we wouldn’t be talking about financing or resources.”

Bustamante said his goal is to “just become the best candidate. And, if I become the best candidate, my community will rally behind me, and so will other communities.”

Bustamante, who has been known to have a taste for the flamboyant, drove a motorcycle into the event. It was something he had wanted to do for the last four years, but the opportunity never presented itself until Friday evening.

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