By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
Assemblymember Warren Furutani, a former candidate for the Los Angeles City Council, will not run for a third term in the Assembly.
Furutani, a Democrat representing the 55th Assembly District, said in a phone interview Wednesday that his mind was made up when he decided to run for the 15th Council District seat last year. “I felt that … I needed to make it very clear that I was all in, and in it to win, and not to have sort of a nice fallback to run for Assembly.”
LAPD officer Joe Buscaino and Furutani were the top vote-getters in the November primary. In the Jan. 17 runoff, Buscaino, a political newcomer with a strong base of support in San Pedro, won by a decisive 61 percent to 39 percent of the vote.
“We worked really hard,” Furutani said of his campaign team. “We did really well in the primary … We just could not catch a break in the general election.”
Furutani was elected to a second term in the Assembly in 2010 and could have sought a third and final term this year. But because legislative district lines have been redrawn, he would be running in a new district and competing with a colleague and fellow Democrat, Assemblymember Isadore Hall of the 52nd Assembly District.
Redistricting, which is carried out every 10 years based on the latest census count, has put many legislators in the same situation.
“They moved my district somewhat north,” Furutani said. “I would lose parts of the district that I’ve worked in the last five years, parts of Wilmington, Long Beach, Lakewood.”
The new 64th Assembly District will include Compton, Willowbrook, Watts and South Los Angeles.
Furutani has endorsed Hall, whom he described as a “good, young up-and-comer.” Hall, 40, previously served on the Compton Unified School District Board of Trustees and the Compton City Council.
In his official endorsement, Furutani said, “I’ve known and worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Assemblyman Hall for many years and I am convinced that he is by far the best candidate for California’s new 64th Assembly seat. He’s proven himself as a champion for job creation, fixing our schools, and ensuring funding for public safety so that we can keep our neighborhood safe. That’s why I’m pleased to throw my full support behind his re-election efforts.”
For the remainder of his term, Furutani plans to “focus on finishing my work up here” in Sacramento. As co-chair of the Conference Committee on Pension Reform, he is “trying to get a bill put together and put it on the governor’s desk this session.”
One of Furutani’s goals has been to eliminate the practices of pension spiking and double dipping in the state pension system.
As chair of the Select Committee on Career Technical Education and Workforce Development, he will continue to work on advancing job training programs.
As chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, one of his goals is getting more APIs elected to the Legislature. The caucus currently has 11 members, but in addition to Furutani’s departure, it will lose Assemblymembers Mike Eng (D-Alhambra), Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) and Mary Hayashi (D-Hayward) due to term limits.
Furutani said that replacing those four members is a “possibility” and that there are “good people running,” but increasing the number of API legislators is a “longshot.” Current candidates for the Assembly include Al Muratsuchi of the Torrance Unified School District Board, Ed Chau of the Montebello Unified School District Board, and San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting.
Furutani is also following Riverside Community College District Trustee Mark Takano’s campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives. “He’s going to do real well. I support him,” Furutani said.
It has been 25 years since Furutani was first elected to public office, becoming the first Asian American member of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education. In 1999, he was elected to the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees. He is the only person to have been elected and re-elected to both boards.
A long-time activist, he helped establish Asian American studies programs at UCLA and CSU Long Beach, co-founded the Manzanar Pilgrimage, and was an administrator at UCLA’s Asian American Student Services Center.
Noting that he will turn 65 in October, Furutani said he has no immediate plans to run for another office. “I was very active in the community before I became an elected official. There is life before and life after being an elected official.”
He summed up his thoughts by saying, “You hit a fork in the road. You know where one is going to go, but it got closed off. The other one’s wide open.”