Connie Leyva’s wild year – San Bernardino Sun

This was not where Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, expected to be, one year ago today.

As the California Citizens Redistricting Commission prepared to release new legislative boundaries, Leyva expected to be running for reelection on Nov. 8, seeking a third term in the state Senate.

“Last year at this time, I thought I was going to be doing one more term in the Senate, that redistricting was going to happen,” the labor leader-turned-legislator said. “My district would change a little bit, but I would keep the core group of cities that I had. And yeah, that didn’t happen.”

Rather than the minor adjustment Leyva expected, the commission chopped off the eastern portion of her district, creating a new 22nd Senate District she would share with Sen. Susan Rubio, D-Baldwin Park.

“Over the Kellogg Hill is not the Inland Empire,” Leyva said.

“I love public service,” she added. “I have loved my job in the Senate, but for more than half of my staff, getting to the 605 Freeway and that area will be at least an hour drive every day. … And it really made me think about how much I’ve missed my family over these last eight years.”

Running again would have meant two incumbent Democratic senators duking it out, so Leyva stepped aside. She announced her intention to run instead for the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, challenging board Chairman Curt Hagman in the Fourth District.

“I thought my odds were better than they turned out to be, because there are about 40,000 more registered Democrats” in the district, said Leyva, who before serving in the state Senate had been the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1428. “And (Hagman) has always been very quiet about what his registration was.”

Hagman had been the minority leader for the Republican Party in the Assembly before joining to the county Board of Supervisors.

“Every weekend, we were out there knocking and talking,” she said of the campaign leading to the June primary. “I love knocking on doors. I’ve met so many amazing people. I don’t regret one bit of it. And then people just didn’t show up to vote.”

Hagman beat Leyva and insurance salesman Larry Wu in the June 7 primary. It was an end to Leyva’s career in politics, at least for now.

“This is the first month in eight years I didn’t write a mortgage check and a rent check,” said Leyva in late October. “So that’s pretty cool. Maintaining two places to live is not easy. And it’s a lonely job, being (in Sacramento) four days a week. … I’m in my apartment by myself, reading. I read lots of things. So I was always very prepared, but it was a lonely job.”

Leyva wasn’t on the job market long. In early October, Inland Empire public television and radio station KVCR announced that it had hired Leyva as the station’s next executive director. Leyva’s term in the Senate ends on Dec. 5, the same day she begins work at KVCR.

“There’s gonna be three components to my job,” Leyva said. “One is engaging the students at Valley College to get them involved and do internships with KVCR, which I love. I love students, I love education, so that’ll be fun. Second is fundraising to make sure that KVCR is self-sustaining. And then thirdly, working on content for the radio station, 91.9 FM, for the TV station, channel 24.”

Even though 2022 turned out far differently than expected, Leyva says she’s upbeat about the future.

“I’m 55 years old, and I feel like I get to have a third career,” she said. “I had twenty-some years in the labor movement. I got to do eight years in the Senate. Now I get to do this. How lucky am I?”

And there’s still a chance voters will see her name on a ballot again some day.

“I have not closed my account to run for (state) Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2026,” she said. In March 2021, Leyva announced her plans to seek the job of the state’s top educator in 2026. “I love education, love, love, love it.”

But in the meantime, Leyva is ready for a break from politics.

“I did not do a good job of pacing myself in this job,” she said. “And I’ll be honest, I’m tired. You know, not just the flying back and forth. Somebody joked and said, ‘We go to every envelope opening.’ And it’s true, but I feel committed: That’s my job as a public official. So it’ll be nice to be able to work hard, but be home every night. And I think I bring something to (KVCR). I think they will bring something to me and it will be a great partnership.”

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