By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Shimpo
A cockroach skulks across a cookie. It’s an unusually creepy opening for a television political ad, but the race for the 66th State Assembly District is anything but usual.
Behind the ad, which alludes to the Miramonte schoolteacher convicted in 2012 of child molestation, are big money supporters of Assemblymember David Hadley of Manhattan Beach. Fighting back, a recent ad featured Gov. Jerry Brown in support of former Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, stating, “Don’t believe what you’ve heard. David Hadley will say anything…”
Mud-slinging emanating from both sides in this race has begun to mirror the tone if not the intensity of the presidential campaign. Political action committees trying to stop Hadley’s re-election have tried to align him with Donald Trump. Yet, Hadley insists that although he is a Republican, he is not voting for Trump.
At stake in the 66th District campaign is the Democrats’ super majority in the State Legislature. California is one of only seven states where the governor and the majority of legislators are Democrats. Without Muratsuchi, the Democrats do not have a two-thirds majority and cannot pass certain kinds of bills unless they can secure bipartisan support.
In 23 other states, Republicans control both the legislature and the governor’s office. Republicans do not hold a single statewide office here.
Since the June primary, Hadley has engaged in a well-financed rematch with Muratsuchi, a Democrat who held the Assembly seat from 2012 to 2014.
Japanese Americans who previously have served in the State Legislature include George Nakano, a three-term assemblyman representing the South Bay from 1998 to 2004, and Warren Furutani, who served three terms in the Assembly beginning in 2008. Furutani is currently running in the 35th District State Senate race.
Statistically, Muratsuchi should have an edge over Hadley, having won the primary in a district that is 40 percent Democratic and 32 percent Republican. The 66th Assembly District includes the largest concentration of Japanese Americans outside of Hawaii, fueling hopes that a Japanese American could once again represent the South Bay.
During the past four years, approximately 3,287 donors, including Japanese American supporters, have contributed a total of $6,536,537 to Muratsuchi.
Nearly $1 million of that is being contributed by Democratic committees in Northern and Central California, plus additional monies coming from numerous labor unions, lawyers associations, and lobbyists.
Mailers attacking Hadley have been issued by the People for Better Government Committee, an L.A.-based political action committee of the San Manuel Band of Missions, and the California Democratic Party.
Meanwhile, Muratsuchi has also received high-profile endorsements from President Obama, Gov. Brown, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Asian Americans who hold statewide offices, including State Treasurer John Chiang.
Hadley has raised a total of $3,645,810 for the elections in 2014 and 2016. In addition to Spirit of Democracy, a political action committee (PAC) funded largely by Republican donor Charles F. Munger, Jr., Hadley’s supporters include Howard F. Ahmanson/Fieldstead & Company of Irvine, South Bay Residents for Better Schools and Jobs, and Bill Bloomfield.
Based on a complaint by Muratsuchi to the Fair Political Practices Commission, Hadley was accused of illegally coordinating with a consultant Steve Presson. On Oct. 26, Hadley turned over documents related to the investigation, and a scheduled Nov. 4 court appearance was cancelled.
The California Republican Party has spent $686,278 to support Hadley’s election bids. Spirit of Democracy is spending an estimated $892,000. In addition to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association, Hadley is supported by the real estate industry, securities and investments, insurance, health professionals, a conservative policy organization, lawyers group, and lobbyists.
The 66th Assembly District consists of Torrance, Gardena, Lomita, Palos Verdes Peninsula, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, and portions of Los Angeles.
Candidates Think Positive as Election Day Looms
Residents in the 66th Assembly District race will learn on Tuesday whether Hadley or Muratsuchi will be representing them in Sacramento for the next two years.
Both candidates exuded confidence on Friday while acknowledging that the results are likely to be close.
“I want to thank the hundreds of volunteers and supporters, especially students from throughout the South Bay, who have worked so hard these past two years to take back the South Bay from the special interests,” Muratsuchi told The Rafu Shimpo.
“Together, we are confident and optimistic going into this historic election.” Muratsuchi added.
“I like my chances on Election Day,” stated Hadley.
“I believe that my team and I have worked hard and effectively to represent and engage the entire South Bay. We have assembled a very broad coalition of friends and supporters — Democratic elected officials like Redondo Beach Mayor Steve Aspel and Gardena Councilwoman Tasha Cerda, independent leaders like former Manhattan Beach Mayor Portia Cohen and Rolling Hills Estates Councilwoman Velveth Schmitz. World War II Nisei veterans like Ken Akune and Ralph Kaneshiro, longtime community leaders like Supervisor Don Knabe.”