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Democratic Assemblyman Ricardo Lara has made plans to run for a Los Angeles County Senate seat official, setting the stage for a 2012 battle with fellow Assembly Democrat Bonnie Lowenthal.

The Bell Gardens Democrat, who was elected to his first term in the state Assembly last year, plans to pass up another term in the Assembly to seek the newly drawn 33rd Senate District, which includes some communities covered by his current seat.

"We face a record jobless rate with education and health care under constant threat of deeper cuts. These challenges don't stop at some arbitrary district lines," Lara said in a statement announcing his candidacy.

The race will pit Lara against two-term Lowenthal, D-Long Beach. Both Lowenthal and her former husband, Democratic Sen. Alan Lowenthal, have represented areas overlapping with the new district.

The Democratic-leaning, majority Latino district, which stretches inland from the port of Long Beach to the city of Vernon, includes Huntington Park, Bell Gardens and the corruption-plagued city of Bell. Lara's campaign highlighted his work as chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee in his campaign announcement, saying he worked to prevent future "Bell-like" scandals from occurring.

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