By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
TORRANCE — Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, a Democrat representing the 66th Assembly District, officially kicked off his re-election campaign at his Torrance headquarters on May 20.
The incumbent faces fellow Democrat Caney Arnold and Republican Frank Scotto in the June 5 primary. The top two vote-getters will move on to the November general election.
Muratsuchi, who has served as a deputy attorney general with the California Department of Justice and a member of the Torrance Unified School District Board of Education, was first elected in 2012, defeating Republican Craig Huey. In 2014 he lost to Republican David Hadley, and in 2016 he challenged Hadley and retook the seat.
During a speech at his campaign headquarters, Muratsuchi thanked his wife Hiroko and their daughter Sophia. “They’re the ones that make a sacrifice whenever I have to go to Sacramento Monday through Thursday every week.” He also thanked his supporters, including Richard and Melanie Lundquist, who provided the office space.
“I am so proud to be able to represent the South Bay … to be able to fight for the South Bay and for California, and I want to continue to fight for the California dream,” he said, noting, “Our economy is going strong. We are now the fifth-largest economy in the world. We’ve surpassed the United Kingdom and France … Our population is approaching 40 million. France’s population is 60 million. So that not only shows the strength of California’s economy, but also the productivity and the efficiency …
“California is really being driven by our innovation economy. We’re the home of high tech, we’re the home of the world’s leading entertainment industry, the world’s leading agricultural industry, and the world’s leading aerospace industry. We want to make sure that we continue the strong California economy to make sure that the prosperity that many of us appreciate in California is extended to all Californians …
“Just seven years ago, California was looking at a $26 billion budget deficit … The governor just announced his May revised budget. We’re looking at a state budget with a ‘rainy day’ fund of … up to $13 billion dollars … That is a remarkable turnaround …
“My opponents are going to be talking about all the problems with California. They’re going to be focusing on all the negatives because that’s what challengers need to do. They’re asking for change and we’re calling for fighting to continue the California dream and the California prosperity and the California comeback that we’ve been seeing locally.”
Muratsuchi, an outspoken critic of the president, said, “I’ve been fighting against the Trump Administration on many fronts. One of my biggest bills this year is a bill to fight back against the Trump Administration’s plan to reopen offshore oil drilling … from Northern California down to the south. The Trump Administration wants to build more rigs and build more pipelines and threaten our oceans and our coastline. And so my bill AB 1775 is one of the leading bills to fight back against … plans to reopen offshore oil drilling.”
Regarding the controversial Torrance ExxonMobil Refinery, he said, “Last year I was proud to be able to get three of my bills signed into law, all bills designed to make the refinery safer. A bill to provide for more effective community alert systems in case of emergencies; another bill to have refineries pay for and install air-quality monitors in the community surrounding the refineries; and last but not least, a bill to require local first responders to work with a federal and state emergency responders so that we are better prepared in case of any emergency.
“But of course, the number one issue at the refinery continues to be the issue to ban the use of the highly toxic hydrofluoric acid. I’m continuing … to fight for that ban right now. Our best hope is with the AQMD [South Coast Air Quality Management District]. Last year I introduced a bill to ban the hydrofluoric acid. Unfortunately, that bill received strong opposition from very powerful special interests and we were not able to move it, but we’re not giving up on that fight.”
Reflecting on his fourth campaign for the Assembly, Muratsuchi said, “I want to thank so many of you in this room that have been with us since the very beginning. In 2012 … we first had the redistricting and frankly, a lot of Democrats were thinking that they were going to lose the seat because it was looking like it was going to be a Republican seat. Well, we fought for and we won this seat in 2012, but we know that this seat continues to be a challenge …
“We experienced it first-hand in 2014 when I lost my re-election by less than a percentage point … I really looked hard, tried to learn the lessons that I needed to learn … The bottom line is turnout. When the people vote, Democrats win … We saw that in 2014 when we had that record low turnout. We have these lower turnouts in non-presidential election years … 2012 was a presidential election year. 2016 was a presidential election year. We got that turnout again and we won the seat right back with an almost 10-point margin.”
In a rare move, President Obama endorsed Muratsuchi and two other Assembly candidates that year. Despite Muratsuchi’s victory, the mood at his election night party was subdued because of Hillary Clinton’s loss to Trump.
Although 2018 would normally be considered an “off” year because the next presidential election is in 2020, Muratsuchi said that won’t be the case. “We’ve been seeing and feeling and being a part of this new energy that has swept across the country in resistance to the Trump Administration. Seeing it right after the inauguration of Donald Trump, not only seeing the Women’s March from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, but right here in the South Bay we had almost 2,000 people turning out … an almost spontaneous gathering of mothers, babies and strollers, fathers, families turning out … It was one of the most family-friendly protests that I’ve ever seen …
“I think that that was the very first indicator of this new energy, that we were not going to sit down and just see what’s happening to our country, but we were going to stand up and fight back. We’ve seen that subsequently in the second Women’s March earlier this year in January. And then we also saw a new sign of this new energy, the March for Our Lives, the students that stood up in response to the Parkland shootings. They organized and they led and they inspired national mass marches from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles. And again, right here in the South Bay, from Manhattan Beach to Hermosa Beach, we had almost 5,000 people turn out for that.”
Although he is “optimistic” because of the results of a recent poll, Muratsuchi cautioned, “The South Bay is a swing district with an almost equal number of Democrats and Republicans … I cannot take the seat for granted and I will once again work hard to earn the privilege of representing the South Bay.”
While people tend to vote along party lines, he said, “The independents, at least in the South Bay, are Democratically leaning, so we know we have the people and it’s just about making sure that they vote.”
Muratsuchi said of his Democratic opponent, “He’s been throwing sticks and stones at me on Facebook … but he really doesn’t have much of a record to run on, so we’re expecting to move on to the November general [with]Frank Scotto.”
He said that Scotto did not show up at a recent candidates’ forum, so the debate was between the two Democrats.
Among those attending the kickoff were Redondo Beach City Councilmember Christian Horvath, Torrance USD Board of Education member Terry Ragins, Palos Verdes Library District Board of Trustees member Kay Jue, Palos Verdes Estates Mayor Pro Tem Kenneth Kao, and Torrance City Council candidate Jimmy Gow.
Caney, a retired U.S. Air Force manager, was elected to the Harbor City Neighborhood Council in 2016 and ran for the Los Angeles City Council, District 15, in 2017, finishing in second place.
“I’ve decided to run for State Assembly because I am not satisfied with the direction that our elected officials are taking our city, state and country,” he said in a statement. “There is far too much theatrics in our political process, which makes it difficult for voters to find relevant and trustworthy information.”
Scotto, founder of Frank Scotto Towing, served on the Torrance Civil Service Commission in 1997, was elected to the City Council in 2000, and was elected mayor in 2010. He is a founder of the Torrance Police Foundation.
“I am running to represent us in the State Assembly because I believe that I can work to keep our community safe, improve our environment, and come to the table to find solutions for issues that affect us where it matters, at home,” he said in a statement.
Scotto’s endorsers include current and former mayors and councilmembers of Torrance, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Rolling Hills Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes and Lomita.
Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo