By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR IN CHIEF
Assemblymember Warren Furutani (D-South Los Angeles) lost his bid for the 15th District Council seat on Tuesday to police officer Joe Buscaino. If elected, he would have been just the second Asian American to serve on the Los Angeles City Council.
With all 94 precincts reporting, Buscaino, a political newcomer who is a senior lead officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, received 9,734 votes or 60.69 percent to Furutani’s 6,304 votes or 39.31 percent. The turnout was 15.93 percent, with half coming from San Pedro.
The district stretches from Watts to San Pedro and includes Harbor Gateway and Wilmington. While Buscaino touted his San Pedro roots, Furutani focused his efforts outside of the harbor community, setting up a campaign office in Watts.
Furutani was defiant and upbeat at an election night party held at the Holiday Inn Torrance Gateway. Early returns from vote-by-mail showed Buscaino with a large lead, which he maintained throughout the evening.
“The evening isn’t over, the battle was in the field. We had 600 people in the field today,” Furutani told his supporters.
He acknowledged the challenge of reaching out to voters, many who are struggling make ends meet.
“We ran into a lot of communities where getting them to vote was a little bit difficult today,” Furutani said. “A lot of people feel that government doesn’t take care of them at all. A lot of people feel cynical and apathetic, but they’ve given up on government because they feel that government has given up on them. We have to change that. And make sure everybody knows that whatever station you have in life, whatever geographic area you live, whatever color your skin, that government is supposed to take care of everyone.”
Buscaino will serve the remainder of Janice Hahn’s term on the City Council. Hahn left the council in July after winning a seat in Congress.
Furutani’s wife, Lisa, and sons, Joey and Sei, joined him on stage as he addressed a racially diverse gathering of more than 200 supporters and campaign volunteers, many representing labor unions. Other members of the Furutani’s family were in attendance, including his mother-in-law, Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga, and his three brothers, Norman, Alan and Stony.
State Controller John Chiang and Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, offered their support to Furutani, who has a long track record in state politics.
Furutani was elected to the state’s 55th Assembly District seat in 2008 in a special election to replace Laura Richardson, who succeeded the late Juanita Millender-McDonald in Congress. Before that, he served on the Los Angeles Unified School District board and the Los Angeles Community College District board.
“We know that Warren is somebody who has stood up for us for decades. He has been active in fighting to make sure that those who have been historically disenfranchised have an opportunity. Warren clearly has a future in the state of California,” said Chiang.
Buscaino slightly outraised Furutani Dec. 4 through Dec. 31, with $60,467 compared to $56,228. Both received $150,000 in public matching funds for the runoff.
Buscaino also benefited from $389,000 spent by political action groups, including the Los Angeles County Business Federation, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Los Angeles Police Protective League.
Furutani received less PAC money. The Los Angeles Democratic Party spent $10,000 on his behalf, and the Golden State Leadership Fund spent $3,590.
Furutani was unavailable for comment on Wednesday. At the close of his comments on Tuesday night, he assumed the mantle of the progressive and pointed ahead to the 2012 presidential election, where he said the same issues will resonate.
“What this fight is about is our future and what government should do. And what this campaign is about is not just getting Furutani elected. It’s about building a movement that has as its basic watchwords a clarion call that we’re talking about power to the people and people power,” said Furutani. “That’s what we’re talking about. It’s not the one percent, it’s the 99 percent.”
–Additional reporting by
CITY NEWS SERVICE