GARDENA — It is a foregone conclusion that the winner of the Nov. 8 election in Senate District 35 will be a Democrat and a former member of the State Assembly.
That description fits both Warren Furutani and Steve Bradford, who finished ahead of two other candidates in the June primary. Furutani received 24.44 percent of the vote to Bradford’s 35.58 percent. The third-place finisher was Compton City Councilmember Isaac Galvan, a Democrat. The fourth candidate was Republican Charlotte Svolos.
The winner next week will succeed State Sen. Isadore Hall, a Democrat, who is running for the 44th Congressional District seat held by Democrat Janice Hahn, who is running for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Both Hall and Hahn have endorsed Bradford.
District 35 includes all or parts of Carson, Compton, Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale, Long Beach, Watts, San Pedro and Torrance.
Furutani, 69, represented Assembly District 55 from 2008 to 2012 and previously served on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education (elected in 1987 and named board president in 1991) and the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees (elected in 1999).
He ran for the Los Angeles City Council seat vacated by Hahn when she was elected to Congress, but lost to Joe Buscaino in 2012. Buscaino, whose district includes San Pedro, endorsed Furutani for Senate last year.
Bradford, 56, served on the Gardena City Council, where he was the first African American member, from 1997 to 2009 and represented Assembly District 62 from 2009 to 2014. He was previously a marketing representative with IBM from 1983 to 1990. He briefly ran for the Senate seat in 2014.
Bradford told The Daily Breeze that one difference between him and Furutani is that “I haven’t run for numerous offices … I’m not shopping offices. I’m a committed public servant and not someone who’s addicted to elected office.”
Furutani says his experience as an elected official informs his focus on “The Four E’s” — education, the economy, the environment, and the elderly. One of his proposals is a statewide system for career technical education that maximizes cooperation among the California State University system, community colleges, adult education and other entities.
His endorsers include Vote Progressive California, an organization of Bernie Sanders supporters. Furutani said in a statement, “As a lifelong progressive myself who first got a taste of activism in the civil rights struggles of the ’60s and ’70s, I am honored to be endorsed … I’ve dedicated my life to the fight for equal opportunity, community empowerment, and economic growth. As progressives, we champion peace, social, economic and racial justice, civil liberties, human rights, a sustainable environment, and a reinvigorated democracy.
“I also believe that we need to remove corporate money from our elections and do all that we can to protect our environment, which is why, unlike my opponent, I have never accepted campaign contributions from the oil industry. That is what I have always believed and fought for and what I will do when elected to the State Senate.”
Former primary opponent Galvan has endorsed Furutani, saying, “Warren has proven that he cares about the issues that matter to Latino families, like improving education and creating job opportunities. I will do everything I can to help him win.”
In announcing the United Farmworkers’ endorsement, UFW President Arturo Rodriguez said in a letter to Furutani, “As an organization, we greatly appreciate the tenacity and leadership you have demonstrated in your work. Your background and proven commitment ensures you will continue to advocate for the dignity and respect of working families.”
Furutani’s backers also include former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta; State Controller Betty Yee; State Treasurer John Chiang; Reps. Tony Cardenas, Mike Honda, Ted Lieu, Alan Lowenthal, Mark Takano and Norma Torres; State Sens. Ed Hernandez, Connie Leyva and Richard Pan; Assemblymembers Rob Bonta, Ed Chau, David Chiu, Kansen Chu, Evan Low, Phil Ting and Das Williams; former Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi; Carson Mayor Pro Tem Elito Santarina; Gardena Mayor Pro Tem Tasha Cerda; and Hawthorne Mayor Alex Vargas.
Furutani has made joint campaign appearances with a fellow Japanese American Democrat, Muratsuchi, who is running to regain the 66th Assembly District seat that he lost two years ago.
Among Bradford’s endorsers are the California Democratic Party; Reps. Karen Bass and Tony Cardenas; Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom; Secretary of State Alex Padilla; State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson; Board of Equalization members Jerome Horton and Fiona Ma; State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon; State Sens. Ricardo Lara, Holly Mitchell, Ben Hueso, Marty Block, Jerry Hill, Cathleen Galgiani, Bob Wieckowski, Carol Liu, Bill Monning, Fran Pavely and Richard Roth; 32 members of the Assembly; former Assemblymember George Nakano; Carson Mayor Albert Robles and Mayor Pro Tem Lula Davis-Holmes; Gardena Mayor Pro Tem Mark Henderson and City Councilmember Rachel Johnson.
Some names appear on both endorsement lists, including Rep. Judy Chu, State Sens. Ben Allen and Jim Beall, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Gardena City Councilmembers Terrence Terauchi and Dan Medina, Gardena City Treasurer Ingrid Tsukiyama, and the UFW.
The Daily Breeze endorsed Bradford, saying that he is “attuned to affordability issues facing low-income residents” and “tends to be more locally focused,” but also commented, “The biggest problem with Bradford is that he is part of a dysfunctional Democratic machine. Since dropping out of the 2014 race, he has been allied with Rep. Janice Hahn and Hall. The three all back each other and are essentially riding a comical merry-go-round with their elected posts — Bradford going for Hall’s State Senate seat, Hall running for Hahn’s congressional seat, and Hahn shooting for a vacant seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.”
Ahead of the primary, both candidates attacked each other in campaign mailers. One Bradford mailer said, “Warren Furutani approved plans to build a school on a methane-infested oil field and toxic waste dump with no concern for the health of our children. The Belmont Learning Center fiasco cost taxpayers over $200 million and could have been avoided if Furutani had listened to the Department of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources that warned it wasn’t safe to build a school on an oil field. Instead, Furutani listened to the millionaire developers and campaign contributors pulling his strings.”
A Furutani mailer said, “Steven Bradford has taken more than $50,000 from oil companies and other big polluters, and then repeatedly refused to stand up for our communities. According to the Sierra Club, one of Bradford’s bills would ‘dangerously undermine California’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.’ And Bradford refused to support California’s landmark clean energy bill, which was killed last year by millions of dollars in oil company contributions. We need leaders with the integrity to stand up for us.”
In an August press release, Bradford’s campaign said that Furutani’s campaign was nearly bankrupt after “lavish spending on consultants and polls.” John Shallman, Bradford’s chief campaign strategist, said, “Either Warren’s polling is bad or his campaign. Either way, Furutani is managing his campaign budget the way he mismanaged the LAUSD budget as a school board member.”
Furutani’s campaign had said that its recent survey included “two negative statements about each candidate, all of which have been aired publicly … Furutani surged to a 14 percent lead, 41 percent to 27 percent … The bottom line is that after hearing identical amounts of information about each of the two candidates, Furutani emerges with a strong lead. Of particular note is that Furutani is well positioned to consolidate the Latino vote, which is the largest segment of the voting population.”
A Furutani press release about the survey emphasized one of the negative statements about Bradford, that he “was accused of flashing an honorary badge in an attempt to make people think he was a police officer” in two separate incidents.
Bradford’s campaign has claimed that he has “unrivaled momentum” and an “insurmountable lead” in terms of fundraising and support, but added, “We cannot afford to take anything for granted.”
Mailers ahead of Tuesday’s election have tended to be positive, touting, for example, Bradford as “Education’s No. 1 advocate” and Furutani’s “lifetime of standing up for our communities.”