Rusnak enters Assembly race

Businesswoman and lawyer says 'we need a new approach to running things.'

February 15, 2012|By Bill Kisliuk, bill.kisliuk@latimes.com

A famous name in Los Angeles automotive circles has joined the race for the Assembly seat representing Pasadena and South Pasadena.

Victoria Rusnak, president and general counsel of the Pasadena-based Rusnak Auto Group, announced Wednesday she is running for the seat. Other candidates for the office include Pasadena City Councilman Chris Holden and South Pasadena Mayor Michael Cacciotti — both Democrats — as well as Republican and Claremont tea party founder Donna Lowe.

Rusnak, 43, is a Democrat who for the last five years has run her family’s group of 11 auto dealerships, with locations around the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys. Rusnak sells high-end cars including Jaguars, Porsches and Rolls Royces, as well as vehicles made by other manufacturers.

She is an attorney who previously worked for the Sierra Club Legal Defense Club in Washington, D.C., and for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Washington state. She also worked with the gun safety group Washington CeaseFire.

She graduated from the University of Southern California and earned law degrees from the Gonzaga University School of Law and George Washington University Law School.

The auto dealerships were founded by her father, Paul Rusnak, in 1966.

Victoria Rusnak said her experience running a 700-employee company will help her shape policies in Sacramento that will be friendly to small business while balancing environmental concerns.

“As a business leader in our district I really understand the issues small businesses face in operating in the state,” she said. “I will be focusing on the economy and job creation.”

This is the first time Rusnak has sought public office. “I just feel very strongly we need a new approach to running things,” she said.

Many of the cities in the newly-drawn district are currently represented by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), who will be forced out of office by term limits at the end of the year. The new 41st District includes Pasadena, South Pasadena, Altadena, Sierra Madre and cities as far east as Upland.

Rusnak enters a race where fundraising and endorsements among Democratic Party groups already are under way. Holden has received the endorsement of the California Democratic Party and had raised more than $255,000 through the end of 2011, though tens of thousands of dollars apparently vanished on the watch of Kinde Durkee, a longtime treasurer for Democratic Party candidates who is accused of misusing millions of her clients’ dollars.

Cacciotti raised more than $100,000 by the end of the year after entering the race in November.

Lowe said earlier this month that she had raised about $10,000 after launching her campaign in December.

Under Proposition 14, which California voters approved in 2010, the top two vote-getters in the June 5 primary will proceed to the November election, even if they are from the same party.

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