The votes are in and Assemblywoman Laura Richardson won the majority vote in the primary for the 37th Congressional District on Tuesday June 26 behind a united coalition of Black elected officials, labor unions and community supporters.
With all precincts reporting, Richardson received 37.8 percent of the votes compared to her closest competitor, Jenny Oropeza, who received 31.3 percent. She outdistanced Oropeza by nearly 2,000 votes with a final tally of 11,027 to 9,144.
Valerie McDonald, the daughter of the late Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald, finished in third place with 9.4 percent of the votes, 2,743 total.
“I’m extremely grateful and thankful,” Richardson said, addressing the crowd. “This is all about representing people. When you have an opportunity to go the U.S. House of Representatives, it’s to represent people and that’s what this race has been about.”
Because Richardson did not win 50 percent of the majority vote, there will be a run-off between her and her closest Republican opponent, John Kanaley on August 21. However, because the 37th District is mostly Democratic, she is expected to win easily and advance to her place in the House of Representatives.
Supporters gathered at the Home Depot Center’s Stadium Club to celebrate her victory, including the large number of Black elected officials who decided early on to rally behind one candidate.
Councilman Isadore Hall of Compton stated how important this was when he said that they “were able to get elected officials and leaders who have not worked together for a long time to come together under one united front to support Laura Richardson.”
Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally called it “one of the most united coalitions that I have ever experienced in his political career.”
“It is a testimony to her ability and willingness to work hard for this job,” Dymally said.
The strength of this campaign was Richardson’s ability to quickly unite a diverse group of supporters behind her. The victory may have been surprising to some, but in their minds, it was their victory almost as much as hers.
“This is a victory for working families,” said Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary for the County Federation of Labor. “They shared resources at every level and made sure the best candidate won.”
Councilman Herb Wesson praised the campaign for its partnership between labor and elected officials and said that it was by far the best-run campaign team.
“It was a textbook campaign,” Wesson said.
It was indeed a campaign that her mentor, Congresswoman McDonald, would have been proud of. It was McDonald, who passed away in April from colon cancer, that gave Richardson her first break into public office and when asked about following in her footsteps, she paused and asked for a moment on silence in her memory.
“When a lot of people gave up on me, the Congresswoman gave me a chance,” she said, “She embraced me, she taught me…and one thing she was committed to was developing other young leaders to coming behind her.”
At McDonald’s funeral, Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman urged the Black leaders to “send us a bad sister” to fill her seat. In Richardson, they found someone who is more than capable of carrying on McDonald’s legacy.
“We have someone who can step in her shoes and continue her vision and her legacy in the 37th Congressional District,” said Carson Councilman Mike Gipson.
The crowd was treated to a celebratory call from Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Despite receiving the news at almost 2:30 a.m., Waters was excited to welcome the new addition to Congress and gave her thoughts on how important the victory will be.
“This election means we are strong and we are providing the kind of leadership that will keep our communities well-represented for many years to come,” Waters said.
Dymally then told Waters to tell Congresswoman Kilpatrick that “you are bringing a bad sister to Washington,” a reference to Kilpatrick’s comments at the funeral.
In telling the jubilant crowd of supporters that she could not have won the election with the support of the Los Angeles Sentinel, Richardson responded to the doubters who did not put much faith in her campaign.
“We all know that most people didn’t think this would happen,” she told the crowd, “But it was because of all the people who are in this room who did their part. Everybody in this room did something and that’s why we see the results that we see.
“This race was not about Laura,” she continued, “It was about making sure we had someone from our community who knew our community, who had experienced the issues of our community and who is committed to delivering for the community.”