January 15, 2012 – Highland Park, CA – AD51 Candidates, Luis Lopez, Arturo Chavez and Jimmy Gomez at the AD51 Northeast L.A. Candidate Forum.
by Tom Topping
The middle of the day on Sunday, January 15th, didn’t seem like the usual time for a candidate forum, but the Northeast area event turned out to be informative and well attended. As it was organized by members of the Stonewall Democratic club, and members of the Democratic Central Committee and the Democratic State Central Committee, the candidates were, of course, all democrats, and just happened to be all latino as well.
It was not easy to differentiate one from the other when it came to their positions on issues like taxation and supporting labor unions, education and healthcare. However, the life experiences of the three candidates, and their individual abilities to communicate are what set them apart most.
The 51st Assembly District is completely new since the redistricting commission finished their work last year, and encompasses all of Northeast L.A., East L.A. Silver Lake and part of Downtown. It is a predominantly Latino district.
The first candidate to speak, Luis Lopez, was appointed by Mayor Villaraigose and has served on the East L.A. Local Planning Commission for the last few years. He came out hard for public workers saying, “Public workers are the pathways to opportunity that I will fight for.” He added that, if elected, he would work to implement the Federal Health Care Reform, to eliminate the 2/3 majority now required to raise taxes and tax the wealthiest of Californians.
Arturo Chavez, who came from his roots as a middle school teacher, was in business for 15 years, until workers comp reform put him out of business. He then worked for CD1 Councilman Ed Reyes for a few years before joining the office of State Senator Gil Cedillo.
He claimed partial credit for his efforts in passing the Dream Act, which pays for the College education of illegal immigrants as well as the latest legislation aimed at preventing the impounding of unlicensed driver’s cars when they are stopped by police.
I have to say I was subtly impressed with Jimmy Gomez, who started out by working at both Subway and Target. He worked his way up to an education at UCLA where he earned a BA in Political Science and a minor in urban planning. He went on to earn a master in public policy degree from Harvard’s School of Government. He went on to work for L.A. City councilman Mike Feuer’s office and Congresswoman Hilda Solis.
He said he had witnessed people trying to make ends meet at $6.20 an hour, and that, as Assemblyman, he wanted to make sure that health care companies put people ahead of profits. He said he was endorsed by Councilmen Garcetti and Reyes and and Congresswoman Judy Chu.
When asked what the candidates thought of the Governor’s tax initiative, they all were in favor of it and Chavez added that we should also vote for the severance tax on every barrel of oil that is removed from California soil. Luis Lopez chimed in with his desire to remove the Proposition 13 protections from commercial properties. Jimmy Gomez added that the oil severance tax should be 25% and that he was in favor of closing loopholes on corporations as well.
On criminal system reforms, they all were opposed to the death penalty because it coast so much due to all the appeals that it brings, eliminating the three strikes law that ties can impose a lifetime sentence on misdemeanor offenders and that more investment in early intervention was needed.
The next issue was how to help the unemployed. Jimmy Gomez vouched for greater tax credits so that film and television production would stay in the state (In favor of a sort of corporate loophole… odd, right after he had just vouched for closing corporate loopholes a few minute earlier.)
Luis Lopez wanted to “grow” health care jobs.
They all were for public transportation and against the 710 freeway extension, with Arturo Chavez taking some of the credit for legislation under Gil Cedillo prohibiting an above ground option for the 710, and for managing the 710 Caltrans properties.
Overall, my impression was that Luis Lopez was well spoken, but came off as a heartless bureaucrat. Arturo Chavez, who by-the-way was not endorsed by his former boss Ed Reyes, was knowledgeable, but his speaking style was hard to hear and hard to follow. I thought I might have picked up a hint of resignation or weariness in his tone, but maybe that was just his gray hairs talking.
Jimmy Gomez was pretty good; smart, energetic and with some life experiences that Sacramento just might need. Of course, it always worries me when I think a politician is good, because it is really a double edged sword. Sometimes, the better they are the worse they are but for the democratic candidates in the newly drawn 51st, it’s about as good as it’s going to get.