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City Council President Ben Hueso said running for state Assembly next year will allow him to better serve residents in the South Bay.

“It’s consistent with what I’ve been trying to accommodate in bringing more resources to my neighborhoods and providing a greater voice for my constituents in government,” said Hueso, who’s been silent on the campaign until this week.

When I spoke to Hueso today, the council president said he’ll support his deputy chief of staff, Alonso Gonzalez, whom Hueso expects will run to replace him in District 8.

Hueso was elected to the council in early 2006 to serve the remaining year of Ralph Inzunza’s term when the councilman was convicted of corruption charges and resigned. Hueso faced Luis Acle, who announced his run for City Council just months into his term on the school board. Hueso was among those who criticized Acle for using his new position as school board president as a stepping stone.

Hueso himself was selected council president in December. He said his situation differs from Acle’s because he will finish out the four-year term he won in June 2006.

“I’m not running away from the position I was elected to do,” Hueso said. “I have two years to complete that position and I’m committed to giving it my full energy and my full attention.”

Hueso said he’ll seek the council presidency again later this year and doesn’t expect criticism from council members for seeking state office. “No one on the council’s come to me and said I think it’s shameful that you’re council president and running for the Assembly,” he said.

He said his campaign won’t detract from his responsibilities as council president. It could enhance opportunities for the city if state legislators are more eager to meet with him as a potential colleague, he said.

Hueso said he’ll be careful not to fundraise or do other campaign activities in Sacramento when he’s traveling on the taxpayers’ dime for city business.

Hueso said the departure of state Sen. Denise Ducheny, who is forced out because of term limits, and Assemblywoman Mary Salas, who is running to fill her seat, leaves a “leadership vacuum” that he’s best equipped to fill because he’s been working with Ducheny and Salas on environmental and affordable housing issues affecting the South Bay.

He said another candidate could take years to gain such familiarity. “We can’t afford to lose two years on such critical projects,” he said.

Hueso said he only started thinking about running for Assembly when Salas — who is backing Hueso — announced earlier this year that she was seeking Ducheny’s seat. He insisted it was not in the back of his mind when he was seeking the council presidency last year because he didn’t yet know Salas was leaving.

“I understood we’re losing Denise Ducheny to term limits,” he said, “but you really don’t think that far ahead when you’re focused on the day-to-day chores of your job.”

RANI GUPTA

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