The New Frontier Democratic Club, founded in 1960 and the largest and oldest historically African American Democratic club in the nation, recently hosted a Candidates Forum in the hotly contested, 26th District State Senate special election race to replace Mark Ridley-Thomas, who now serves as the 2nd District Los Angeles County Supervisor.
Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr., state party secretary of the California Democratic Party and treasurer and past president of the New Frontier Democratic Club, presided over the debate which featured questions from a distinguished cross-section of Los Angeles business, student, and community leaders, as well as written questions from attendees that packed the auditorium of the Holman United Methodist Church on Adams Blvd. in South Los Angeles.
After a warm welcome from Rev. Henry L. Masters, Sr., senior pastor of the host church, and the ground rules were reviewed by Jones-Sawyer, the candidates delivered opening remarks before the questions got underway.
Saundra Davis, vice president of the Culver City School Board, introduced herself as a wife and mother of eight children and one who is knowledgeable about budgets and politics.
Davis stated that jobs are the most important issue the district described the job center she established in conjunction with the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Mike Davis, currently the 48th District California Assembly Member, whose district overlaps portions of the 46th Senate District, chronicled his progressive and increasingly more significant political career moves which began as a field deputy and ascended to the position of district director for California's 35th Congressional District and as senior deputy for Los Angeles County's 2nd Supervisorial District, before winning his first elected position as an Assembly Member.
Marvin Evans denounced he was "not a girlie-man," directing his angst towards Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who raised senior citizen's taxes.
Evans reminded the crowd they are selecting management leadership and he made it unquestionably clear that is not afraid to stand-up to the governor.
Curren Price, now serving as California's 51st District Assembly Member, said that California is at a crossroads as he listed a number of problems that are similar to the nation that have been spelled out by President Barack Obama.
Price voiced the need for the 26th Senate District is leadership and he detailed the 25 years he has served his community and its constituents as a community activist and organizer, business owner, Inglewood City Council member and state legislator.
Candidate Robert Cole boldly offered that it cannot be politics as usual. He told the crowd that he grew up in the community represented by the 26th District and promised to be for the people and by the people and put the people first.
Another Democratic candidate, Jonathan Friedman, was observing his religious Sabbath and regretted that that he was not able to participate in the Candidates Forum.
The questions covered the most pressing needs of the 26th District, which coincidentally, are similar to the greatest challenges of the state and the nation - jobs, education, the economy, economic development, and healthcare, etc.
When asked about their perception of the district's greatest needs, Cole said it was overspending and Saundra Davis countered it was the two-thirds super majority required to pass the state's budget. Mike Davis and Price agreed that budget reform is the biggest problem while Evans pointed to lack of steady leadership in Sacramento.
Senator Rod Wright, now serving in the California Senate, explained that budget reform is not likely to occur within the near future. "Budget reform initiatives have failed two times and it was rejected by voters, largely because people are afraid that taxes will go up." Wright said. "We are facing tough times and very soon, we must decide what we want and what we can learn to live without," citing the fact that we simply do not have enough revenue to sustain existing programs.
On the subject of the District's most important issue, Price cited jobs and economic development while Cole indicated housing and S. Davis said that jobs were the number one priority. Cole said that the most important issue is the statewide crisis and crime. M. Davis said that the most important issue was healthcare because without our health, all of the rest matters very little.
Addressing the question why are you running, Cole said we need a change and it cannot be business as usual. S. Davis said she is able to do the things that she says she will do. M. Davis said he was running because he has 25 years of experience serving the citizens in the district, the people come first and he will serve all of the constituents. Price said that he believes in public service, he is a public servant and believes he can make a difference and is able to step-up and lead. Evans said, you come first and I will serve you.
While this report is not intended to favor one candidate or another but merely to present a synopsis and an overview of the some of the responses provided by the candidates, it may be said that some candidates seemed to have more factual data at their immediate recall and were more specific and focused in answering questions than others.
A survey of nearly a dozen observers after the forum's conclusion, too numerous to mention in this report, indicated that each candidate seemed to have supporters who came to support them and their favorite candidate's performance affirmed their original choice.
One VIP, who asked that their name be omitted from this report, captured the essence of many of the neutral comments that were collected.
"We have a slate of well qualified candidates who all bring passion, energy, knowledge and enthusiasm to this district." It was said. "It is up to the individual voters to get the information they need to make an informed decision and I believe that the candidate who is able to get out the most votes, will carry the day, especially since this is a special election and there are no other significant measures or offices up for election or re-election that will generate great voter turnout. Voter turnout is likely to be very low."