By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
TORRANCE — With several elected officials in attendance, Al Muratsuchi officially kicked off his campaign for the 66th Assembly District on April 9 at a business park in Torrance.
Muratsuchi, a Democrat and a state deputy attorney general, was elected to the Assembly in 2012 and served one term before losing to Republican David Hadley in the 2014 election.
The district, whose voter registration is about 40 percent Democratic and 33 percent Republican, includes Gardena, Harbor City, Hermosa Beach, Lomita, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates and Torrance.
Among those speaking in support of Muratsuchi was Rep. Ted Lieu of the 33rd Congressional District, which stretches from Malibu to the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
“I knew him before he was in public service. I knew him when he was in the State Legislature. We worked together,” Lieu said. “The most important thing I can say about Al is that he’s effective. He got some significant pieces of legislation passed through the Legislature and signed by the governor.”
As an example, Lieu cited SpaceX, the Hawthorne-based company that recently launched a rocket into space and then landed it on a barge in the ocean. “There is a reason SpaceX doesn’t do all this in the middle of Kansas. They are here not only because we have extraordinary talent in Southern California but also because we have legislators like Al Muratsuchi who passed laws to make sure they’re not unfairly discriminated against … The L.A. County tax assessor was essentially penalizing them based on their business model (until) Al Muratsuchi passed AB 777.”
On Muratsuchi’s environmental record, the congressman said, “He also passed through the State Legislature, signed by the governor, a law that streamlines solar installations. For a long time you had different cities … that had all these really quite bizarre rules on installing solar. Al’s law helps fix that. It’s going to increase the number of solar panels we have in California and really should be a model for the nation …
“He’s taken a position on Exxon Mobil (which has a refinery in Torrance). He wrote an op-ed saying that hydrofluoric acid is just too dangerous for this area. Hopefully the AQMD (South Coast Air Quality Management District), working with Torrance, will come up with some alternatives.”
Lieu recalled attending an event with President Obama two days earlier: “He said state legislatures have enormous power and oftentimes folks don’t think about the things that state legislators do. One of the things that they get to do is work on voting rights issues. If you want people to be able to … vote without obstacles, you need to have state legislators to enact those laws. America is the only civilized country where we have folks that try to dissuade people from voting … actually putting in obstacles to make it harder to vote. That is one of the things that have affected Democrats and something that states have a lot of control over.”
Regarding Muratsuchi’s defeat in 2014, Lieu said, “He was ahead in the polls. The election happened, he didn’t win. He did a poll the very next day. He was still ahead in the polls. What happened is the voters didn’t turn out. This year that’s not going to happen … You’re going to have a lot of people turning out either because they’re angry or they’re scared and they’re going to vote against Ted Cruz or Donald Trump and they’re going to vote Democrat. If we could just assist with that effort, not only will you get Al Muratsuchi elected, you’ll help me get elected, you’ll help Janice Hahn get elected (to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors).”
“Today is the day that we begin our work to take back the South Bay,” Muratsuchi told his supporters. “We are going to take back the South Bay from the billionaires, Big Oil and the other wealthy special interests that basically bought this seat from us.”
After his campaign was able to “keep the South Bay blue” in 2012, he said, “We got to accomplish a lot of great work … Not only did we pass job-creating laws, but we were able to balance the budget, restore over $10 billion in funding for our schools, and support California’s national and global leadership in the fight against climate change …
“But unfortunately, in 2014 … we lot our re-election by less than a percentage point. We lost basically for two reasons. One, the turnout. The bottom line was that there were more Republicans that turned out than Democrats. Even though I worked hard to work across party lines, and I know that I have bipartisan support here in this room, most people tend to vote on straight party lines …
“The second reason why we lost in 2014 was one man, a billionaire by the name of Charles Munger Jr., who spent over $1.2 million through an independent expenditure to bankroll my opponent’s smear campaign against me and basically buy the Assembly seat. But 2016 promises to be different … As we all know from this wild and crazy election year that we’ve been seeing, the people will turn out to vote …
“When the people vote, Democrats win. When the people vote, we can defeat billionaires, whether it’s Donald Trump, whether it’s the Koch Brothers that have given thousands of dollars to my opponent, or whether it’s Charles Munger Jr., who we expect to be coming back in this race … Let’s make this a great election year from the South Bay to the White House.”
State Sen. Ben Allen of the 26th Senate District, which includes much of the South Bay as well as Marina Del Rey, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, described Muratsuchi as “an honorable man, a dignified man, someone who’s from this community who served on the School Board here with great distinction, then went on to the State Legislature. He worked very, very hard. He was … known for being very thoughtful, very balanced in the way he governed … He stood up for Hermosa as it was fighting against Big Oil … He’s also somebody who has a really good reputation in the business community …
“One of the things we’re now working together on is an idea that Al had to shine a little light on the importance of the aerospace industry right here in the South Bay. We have in the State of California a lot of commissions. We have a Strawberry Commission, we have an Asparagus Commission … Turns out that the aerospace industry, which actually has more revenues than the entire entertainment and agriculture industries combined, they don’t have a commission. They don’t have anyone fighting for them at the state level.
“Al got how important this industry is to the local economy … Al proposed this commission. I’ve been able to take it up now. Hopefully we’ll be able to work together more on it when he comes up to Sacramento.”
Allen added, “We have so much more we have to do with our K-12 system … to build up a really strong early childhood program — something the new (Assembly) speaker, Anthony Rendon, has talked a great deal about … It’s so important that we invest at that early level, and the speaker needs people like Al to be fighting … to get more investment into our system.”
Muratsuchi thanked Richard and Melanie Lundquist for providing the space where the kickoff was held, which will also serve as campaign headquarters until the primary. He also thanked his wife Hiroko, whom he called “the most important person in the room,” for her support.
As there is another Democrat on the ballot, retail manager Mike Madrigal, Muratsuchi told his supporters, “We need to make sure we get our votes out.”
Muratsuchi’s campaign manager is Marc Sussman, who managed Lieu’s congressional campaign in 2014 and enabled him to beat 18 other candidates in the primary. Lieu said Sussman did a “phenomenal” job.
State Treasurer John Chiang, a probable candidate for governor in 2018, and former Assemblymember Warren Furutani, a candidate in the 35th Senate District, came to show their support. Other elected officials in attendance were:
Torrance — Mayor Pat Furey, Councilmember Kurt Weideman, School Board member Terry Ragins;
Hermosa Beach — Mayor Pro Tem Hany Fangary, Councilmember Stacey Armato, School Board member Margaret Bove-LaMonica, former School Board member Ray Waters;
Lawndale Mayor Robert Pullen Miles, Redondo Beach Councilmember Christian Horvath, Manhattan Beach Councilmember Amy Thomas Howorth, Rolling Hills Estates Councilmember Judy Mitchell, West Basin Municipal Water District Director Harold Williams, Palos Verdes Library District Board member Kay Cooperman Jue.
Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo