By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR IN CHIEF
It’s a new day for Warren Furutani after he emerged on Tuesday as one of the top two candidates in Tuesday’s special election for the 15th District seat on the Los Angeles City Council.
“We’re gonna keep rolling. It’s a new campaign, it’s day one, we know what we need to do and I’m excited about it,” said Furutani in an interview with The Rafu Shimpo.
Furutani and Los Angeles police Officer Joe Buscaino will square off in a Jan. 17 runoff election. They topped a field of 11 candidates vying to take over for Janice Hahn, who left the seat in July when she was elected to Congress to replace Jane Harman. Harman stepped down earlier this year to run a foreign policy think tank in Washington, leaving a vacancy in a district that stretches from Watts to San Pedro.
With all precincts reporting, Buscaino was the top vote getter with 29.10 percent of 4,751 votes. Furutani finished in second with 22.32 percent or 3,644 votes.
The day after the election, Furutani was calling other candidates and planning the next phase of campaigning. It will be a clash of contrasts: Furutani, who is in his second term in the Assembly, will be facing Buscaino, a political newcomer, who campaigned on his outsider status and San Pedro roots.
“In the initial planning we thought Rudy (Svorinich) would be the one. And Joe was kind of a dark horse. He really ran his campaign well, as did we. It’s all going to be who can get the votes out,” said Furutani. “There are tough issues we are facing on all levels of government, I’m going to bring experience to the table.”
The January election also poses other challenges, Furutani explained.
“People aren’t used to voting on Jan. 17th. There will be distractions with the holidays, Christmas and New Year’s. It’s going to be tough to keep the voters interested and tougher to get them voting,” said Furutani.
The candidates and outside groups spent $1.9 million on mailings, billboards, TV ads, yard signs and more to sway voters in the heavily
Democratic district. During the campaign, the candidates jockeyed for prominent endorsements from influential politicians and powerful unions.
In July, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced his support for Furutani, who also has received endorsements from the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, the Teamsters and a handful of labor unions representing government workers.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League spent $72,285 to support Buscaino.
Furutani has also called on Buscaino to join him in signing a pledge to run a clean campaign. In the run-up to Tuesday’s election, negative campaign ads targeting Furutani and Svornich were sent out to voters by supporters of firefighter Pat McOsker.
If he prevails in January, Furutani would become only the second Asian American and first Japanese American on the City Council – something not lost on the candidate, who has long been a standard-bearer on Asian American issues.
“We’re hoping it means something to our collective communities, the Nihonjin community in particular. We have leaders like Sen. Inouye and Norman Mineta and all those good folks, but we need to keep being involved in the political world,” said Furutani.
“It’s an interesting opportunity, I may be first in line up but we have Al Muratsuchi running for Assembly, and Mark Takano running for Congress. Both will be top candidates. It could be a political windfall for the JA community.”
— Additional reporting by CITY NEWS SERVICE