By WARREN FURUTANI
As I ride off into the political sunset, it is comforting to know that I am being followed like I followed others before me. A victory for Al Muratsuchi in the State Assembly and Mark Takano in Congress bodes well for the Nikkei community.
With me leaving the Assembly there is only one JA in the Legislature. Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada got re-elected Nov. 6, but she can only serve two more years. Also I was the lone JA from So Cal and now Al will take my place and can serve 12 years under the new term-limits law.
But why is this important or am I just being ethnocentric? I just wonder if there had been a Nikkei elected legislator in California or in Congress, if our community would have been rounded up and imprisoned in concentration camps during WWII. Who knows, but I do know that we need a seat at the political table just like we do in business, education and so forth and so on.
To get that seat is no easy task. There are no political districts where there is a significant JA population on the mainland. Consequently a Nikkei candidate has to be a coalition-builder, and both Al and Mark are.
Al, to his credit, waited for his turn to run for the Assembly. He contemplated a run two years ago but astutely stepped aside. Then redistricting provided that opportunity and also provided a base of JA voters in the new district. The new 66th District has Torrance and Gardena in it, so that was a political building block for Al. Also, the legacy of retired Assemblymember George Nakano and State Sen. Ted Lieu, both elected from the Torrance area, added to the possibility of Al following suit.
For Mark, redistricting provided the opportunity for a successful congressional run as well. He has been a long-time and respected community college trustee in his area and ran for congress unsuccessfully years ago. But he is an example of “good things come to those who wait” and the reality that politics is a long-term game. If you persevere, work hard and do a good job, who knows what the future holds. Mark now joins the exalted ranks of respected Nikkei congressional and Senate legislators.
Their names are familiar and respected by us all. Mark follows Congressmembers Bob Matsui, Patsy Mink, Norm Mineta and our Hawaiian Sens. Dan Inouye and Sparky Matsunaga. (Yes, I remember there was the short tenure of the infamous senator from California, S.I. Hayakawa.) Mark will now join Congressmembers Mike Honda and Doris Matsui and newly elected Hawaiian Sen. Mazie Hirono in Washington, D.C. Mark is a Sansei and will be the youngest JA congressperson.
With a sigh of relief I look to the political future of the Japanese American community in So Cal. That future is interesting because we have a excellent candidate running in the Los Angeles 9th City Council District early next year, Terry Hara. Terry’s chances are excellent in the primary because there are so many candidates in the race but he’ll really need our help to prevail in the run-off.
But just imagine, if Terry wins, the Nikkei community will have achieved a political “trifecta” (national, state and local) and the possibility of younger JAs considering a run for political office will be greatly enhanced.
Congratulations to Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi and Congressman Mark Takano.
Warren Furutani is outgoing assemblymember representing the 55th District, which includes the cities of Carson, Harbor City and Harbor Gateway, Lakewood, parts of Long Beach and Wilmington.