Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and 17 other Democratic senators -- 18 of the 26 members of the majority party caucus -- announced their en masse endorsement of Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez Tuesday.
"Leticia Perez is well known and respected for being a fiscal conservative and a proven advocate for equal rights, good-paying jobs, public education and safe neighborhoods," wrote Steinberg in a statement. "I am very happy she will be adding her voice to the state Senate to strongly advocate for the people of the Central Valley."
"I'm running to represent the Valley. I'm proud to have earned the support of many leaders who care about California's future," Perez wrote in a statement.
Fran Florez, whose son Dean Florez was Senate Majority Leader under Steinberg, called the endorsements premature and said the Senate leadership is trying to tamper with the choice of Central Valley voters.
Usually, she said, party leadership allows Democratic candidates in the primary to run and gets behind whoever succeeds in garnering the voters' support.
"They're not letting the voters make up their minds," Florez said. "They have a plan. They're trying to choose who they want in that seat."
Perez said she has confidence in the voters.
"The voters are the only ones who will decide who represents them. I pledge to work every day to try and earn the voters' support," Perez stated in a message.
Florez acknowledged that both she and Perez visited Sacramento to pitch their candidacy to political leaders and Democratic supporters.
"She went up and saw people. I went up and saw people," Florez said. "Darrell's a friend. I could sit there comfortably and tell him, 'I'm in and if you can support me, great.'"
But she said she didn't expect support or opposition from the party in the primary.
"The fact that they would go ahead and get involved in the primary ..." Florez said. "I'm sure they have their reasons, but I don't know what those reasons are."
"It's not news that is going to impact what I'm going to do," Florez said. "It's certainly not the end of my world."
Senators endorsing Perez, according to the press release from the body's Democratic caucus, include Marty Block, Ron Calderon, Ellen Corbett, Lou Correa, Kevin De Leon, Noreen Evans, Cathleen Galgiani, Ed Hernandez, Jerry Hill, Loni Hancock, Hannah-Beth Jackson, Ricardo Lara, Mark Leno, Ted Lieu, Carol Liu, Richard Roth and Sen.-elect Ben Hueso.