By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
TORRANCE — The hard-fought campaign for the 66th Assembly District seat came to an end Wednesday morning when Democrat Al Muratsuchi declared victory over Republican Craig Huey.
As of 8 a.m. Wednesday, Muratsuchi, a Torrance School Board member and state prosecutor, had 73,505 votes (53.8 percent) to small businessman Craig Huey’s 63,217 (46.2 percent). The district includes Torrance, Gardena, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach and Rancho Palos Verdes.
During the election night celebration Tuesday night at the Miyako Hybrid Hotel in Torrance, the crowd — including youth who worked on the campaign — was fired up, cheering and applauding during Mitt Romney’s concession speech and President Obama’s victory speech. Muratsuchi entered the room with his wife, Hiroko, and daughter, Sophia, to the tune of Paul Simon’s 1980s hit “You Can Call Me Al.”
Campaign manager Sergio Carrillo told the audience, “15 months ago, many of you joined Al in his journey … It’s been a long journey, a painful journey sometimes, but an exciting journey most of the time. We are here today … because of all of you in this room ran an amazing campaign …
“We have in Al Muratsuchi a man who truly cares about the community … who truly cares about the great state of California … who is running for the right reasons. Some of us have been involved in politics for quite a long time. Very rarely do you meet someone who really has a sincere feeling of service, who really wants to dedicate himself to public service to do better, not just for himself and his own family, but for all of our own families as well. It has been an honor to work with Al the last few months and I know that it will be a great feeling to work with him for many years to come.”
Muratsuchi was joined on the stage by his wife, his daughter, and his parents, Nobuko and Jiro. In addition to his family, he thanked the student volunteers. “They really became the heart and soul of our campaign … The army of high school and college students, 20, 30, 40 students a night, every night, day in, day out, you really became the cause, the reason why we’re fighting so hard.”
Citing his experience on the school board and as a deputy district attorney, Muratsuchi has pledged to fight for education funding and crack down on crime.
Recalling the months of fundraisers, meet-and-greets, phone banking and precinct walking, he said, “I think many of you, especially the veteran campaigners, noticed that this was one of the best campaign teams that they’ve ever worked with, one of the most organized, one of the most competent, one of the most brilliant.”
The campaign included a series of dueling mailers from the candidates and their supporters. Muratsuchi’s mailers linked Huey with the Tea Party and called him “too extreme for the South Bay.” One mailer said that Huey “opposes a woman’s right to chose,” “supports privatizing Medicare and Social Security,” and “has represented clients and companies convicted of fraud.” Huey has taken legal action over the latter claim.
One of Huey’s mailers stated, “Al Muratsuchi is throwing mud at Craig Huey because he knows he can’t run on the issues” and called Muratsuchi a “government bureaucrat,” “defender of special interests” and “career politician who supports raising taxes.” Shelly Huey was quoted as saying, “Voters deserve to know the truth about my husband … and shouldn’t be fooled by misleading attacks funded by special interests.”
“We knew from the get-go that this was going to be one of the most competitive races in the entire state and we knew that it was going to be a real dogfight,” Muratsuchi said. “Sometimes it got uglier than it should have gotten. But we are proud of the fight that we’ve been waging and we are confident that we’re going to win this race.”
Supporters at the event included Gardena City Treasurer Ingrid Tsukiyama, Gardena City Councilmember Dan Medina (who also served as DJ), Torrance School Board President Terry Ragins, State Sen. Ted Lieu, Torrance School Board member Don Lee, former Gardena Mayor Don Dear, former Assemblymember George Nakano, Hermosa Beach Mayor Jeff Duclos, Torrance City Councilmember Cliff Numark, Hermosa Beach School Board member Ray Waters, Redondo Beach City Councilmember Bill Brand, Torrance City Councilmember Gene Barnett, and West Basin Municipal Water District Vice President Carol Kwan, who was re-elected on Tuesday.