Supervisor Mark-Ridley Thomas Warming Up for The Mayoral Race

Chamba SanchezBy Chamba SanchezJanuary 15, 2020
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Last weekend, I stopped by the Fairfax, where an Ethiopian club held a candidate forum for the Council District 10.  The following candidates were in attendance, Grace Yoo, Channing Martinez, Aura Vasquez, Melvin Snell, Supervisor Mark-Ridley Thomas. This piece will focus on three candidates.

There was a palpable energy in the room.  The forum began, and questions started rolling in, candidate Supervisor Mark-Ridley Thomas answered them with so much ease.  He has been in politics for the last three decades, he joined the city council in L.A in 1991 and then served in both houses of the California State Legislature.  Currently, Mark-Ridley Thomas is a supervisor representing District 2 in the County of Los Angeles.

As other candidates in this forum spoke about their understanding of the problems, it was not hard to extrapolate why Supervisor Thomas is the shoo-in for this race.

Grace Yoo might be the only competition for Mark-Ridley Thomas. She was calm, collected, and passively aggressive. She answered questions thoughtfully.  Grace Yoo comes from the vibrant Korean community,  a community that has gained a lot of economic and political power in the last decade. According to her website, Grace Yoo is a lawyer who does work with wills and trusts. And she was also a candidate for this very same office in 2015. If elected, she will be the third Korean American councilmember serving in the L.A. city government.

Aura Vasquez displayed so much energy, but her responses lacked substance.  She kept blurting out many cliches such as ” the boys club” and “revolving door” that were out of place and appeared to have been directed to Supervisor Mark-Ridley Thomas.   According to her website, candidate Aura Vasquez is an immigrant from Colombia and a former commissioner in the city of Los Angeles. She was appointed by Mayor Garcetti to the DWP commission.

Aura Vasquez’s background on her website lists an impressive history of activism.  Nonetheless, I did not see those well-thought-out responses that organizers, with that much organizing experience, tend to give when they are given the microphone.  Also, she came across as a candidate who is against the establishment. That would be a tough case to make.  Since she has been an extension of the paralysis taking place in city hall, she could not have been appointed to any commission, wasn’t she part of the Garcetti’s cult.   

Supervisor Thomas was elected to the L.A. City Council, a couple of years before legendary Mayor Tom Bradley, stepped down. He represented the Eighth District in the 1990s and used the office to build civic organizations, The Empowerment Congress and the African American Voter Registration, Education, and Participation (AAVREP) being two of those.

The last time Supervisor Thomas was on the ballot for a contentious race, the country was on the brink of electing the first African American President in this country’s history.  Supervisor Thomas was in a tough race running against Bernard Park for the board of supervisors.  The African community was divided, and Thomas was able to get the labor support that came with a lot of resources.  This race was dubbed the most expensive race in L.A County history.

City Council District 10 is comprised of communities in the south and west parts of downtown Los Angeles.  District 10 is the smallest in the City of Los Angeles; There are roughly 250,000 residents. Moreover, 52 neighborhood councils have been certified, which include diverse communities such as Koreatown, Little Ethiopia, and Leimert Park.

This district has been changing in the last decade; African American candidates have to reach out to a broader audience. There is also a large segment of Latinos in this district, “Forty-seven percent of the district’s residents are Latino, compared to the city-wide average of 49%, while 24% of the district’s residents are African American compared to a city-wide average of 9%.”

Supervisor Thomas is leading in both fundraising and endorsements from major groups and politicians in this city’s civic landscape.  He has managed to get endorsements from major labor unions in this city. From powerful United Firefighters of L.A. to L.A. County Federation of Labor to SEIU 721.  Newly installed L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez, as well as Governor Newson support Supervisor Thomas. Furthermore, according to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission’s website, Supervisor Thomas has raised a cumulative amount of $565,402.99 as of today.

Aura Vasquez has raised $85,412.80 and has gotten endorsements from the National Union Healthcare Workers-NUHW, Sunrise Movement, and a couple of others.  Grace Yoo, on the other hand, got support from the influential Teachers’ union-UTLA and East Area Progressive Democrats-EAPD. She has also raised $165,781.00.

The pundits who like to slice-and-dice elections in this city believe that Thomas is just warming for the mayoral race in two years.  And so is Kevin De Leon, who is also running for the 14th district.  Los Angeles is a city where politicians blatantly deny to be interested in another office while running for one, and then once elected, they began campaigning for the office they deny to be interested in.

As one looks around, this city faces the same daunting challenges year in and year out.  Deservedly so, one might argue. What can voters expect when they keep electing the same people for different offices?

There must be a way in which we can develop a new generation of leaders in our city’s politics. This is a problem in Los Angeles; most voters would like to see new people with a new vision and voice. Many of the new candidates currently emerging have not crossed the threshold of being leaders in their communities.  Some of them are just fixated on their personal histories, and many have a thin resume doing community work.  Hence voters keep electing career politicians.

The fundamental problems facing Los Angeles can no longer be solved on a superficial level.  A deeper level of thinking is desperately needed.  This city needs a new generation of leaders with a progressive vision and imagination to tackle the problems at hand.

Thank you for reading.
Photo Credit:  Picture was taken during the candidate forum


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