Seven candidates seek 30th Senate District seat

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By Sue Favor

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — Voters in the 30th Senate District will have choices to make in the March 2 special election to fill the vacant seat.

Three Democrats, two Republicans and two other candidates are vying for the spot left open by former Sen. Holly Mitchell, who left in December after being elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Mail-in balloting and drop-box voting have been available for about three weeks for the election. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, there will be a runoff election May 4 between the top two finishers, regardless of political party.

Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager, whose 54th Assembly District covers about 54% of the 30th District, was the first to declare her candidacy for the post last November. The Democrat was Mitchell’s district director until 2018, when she was elected to the Assembly after Mitchell from the Assembly to the Senate.

During her time in office, Kamlager has successfully authored probation reform laws, pushed for renter protection rights and advocated for economic relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has said the 30th District feels like home to her, and that if elected, she would continue to advocate for greater stability for constituents.

I am running to provide the 30th Senate District a strong, bold leader with the experience and courage to fight for real, progressive change,” Kamlager said. “A leader who knows the nuances and neighborhoods of the district.

“I am fighting to clean our air and water, lift folks out of poverty, achieve equity in its fullest form, and keep our brothers and sisters from being killed by law enforcement.

“I am working to bring street medicine to our homeless populations, to lower the cost of pharmaceutical drugs, to implement health care for all, to get rid of arbitrary gang enhancements, and to create more affordable housing.”

Kamlager makes no bones about filling the seat of Mitchell, who was the only Black woman in the Senate, as another Black woman.

“I am also running because the California State Senate critically needs the voice of a Black woman,” Kamlager said. “Currently, no Black woman holds a Senate seat in this state. Yet, Black women have proven powerful and effective time and time again in fighting for and winning the change we need.”

Culver City Councilman Daniel Lee is also seeking the seat. A Democrat, he champions equitable and affordable housing, increased spending on education, police reform, health care reform and addressing the statewide homelessness crisis.

“Los Angeles County is a microcosm of income inequality, and the 30th District is the epicenter of this economic dichotomy,” Lee said. “In Culver City, 45% of our residents are renters, in Los Angeles County that number is 54.58% and in California that number stands at 45%. In California Senate District 30, 55.9% of households are rent or mortgage burdened.”

Lee has watched homelessness skyrocket over the last few years and become even more of an issue during the pandemic. He said the issue is directly related to health care and regulations that help renters.

“People cannot be healthy if they are not housed,” Lee said. “If our state musters the political courage to enact single-payer health care, we must also make sure that the beneficiaries of this care are properly sheltered. This means expanded homelessness services and stronger protection for renters.”

The third Democrat running for the seat is attorney Cheryl C. Turner, who is the president of the Board of Directors of the Apartment Owner’s Association of Los Angeles County. The pillars of her platform include economic recovery from the pandemic, establishing universal health care, raising the minimum wage, creating environmental protections, finding housing solutions and supporting small businesses.

“My legal background will enable me to propose, evaluate and advocate for laws that will benefit this district,” Turner said. “My history of public service to this community assures you that I will be on the lookout for your best interests, and not be swayed by special interests groups (that) conflict with our community’s needs.”

“I will work to create jobs, and to keep taxes to a minimum. I will help to improve the economy and our environment by promoting the development of clean energy public infrastructure.”

Entrepreneur Joe Lisuzzo heads up the Republican side of the race with an outspoken campaign that focuses on a few key issues. He points to the closure of businesses in Los Angeles as a major area of concern, as well as the burgeoning homelessness crisis.

Lisuzzo would also like to address education, to prevent what he calls “students falling behind the national average.” And he also points to the rise in crime and what he says is the need for accountability around that problem.

He said he is moved by the gravity of these issues to make the jump into the Legislature.

“I am all about service,” Lisuzzo said. “After decades of successfully serving the community in private business, I now want to bring my skillset to serve the community in public office.”

He said he views the role of senator very seriously.

“Serving the public should be exactly that: serving others,” he said. “As a public servant, I plan to transcend politics and solely focus on working with all of my colleagues in the state Senate to fix L.A.’s and California’s issues that affect you, your job, your taxes, your family and your environment. I promise to be ‘your employee’ and work for you; not the other way around.”

The second Republican in the race, Tiffani Jones, did not respond to requests for comment on her campaign platform.

Ernesto Alexander Huerta represents the Peace and Freedom Party, a socialist organization. He faults California’s Democrat-majority legislature for the crises that have resulted from the pandemic, including unemployment and evictions and foreclosures. He said he is running due to a clear need to “ditch the status quo and address today’s major crisis, though a socialist program that centers around working-class families.”

“I am running on a five-point program to cancel the rents and mortgages, bring free health care to California, defund the police, bring reparations to Black America, and establish full rights for immigrants and the undocumented. The courage and strategy necessary to establish these reforms are completely absent within the current state Legislature. It is time to elect a working class fighter and build a mass movement capable of securing these reforms.”  

Renita Duncan is the lone candidate in the race that doesn’t have an affiliation with a political party. A 20-year military veteran who served in Iraq and Kuwait, Duncan said she is uniquely qualified to address the current economic and housing hardships district residents are experiencing.

“I’ve been a mother who’s had to manage her house from afar,” she said. “I have run departments in the military that help victims overcome sexual assault, domestic violence and suicide. I have helped people who have been hurt or victims of events get back on their feet. I understand how to deal with crises and I understand what it means to work with diverse people and facilitate collaboration between diverse groups.”

If elected, Duncan said she would focus on working to provide economic assistance for families and businesses, creating education reform, facilitating collaborative law enforcement reform, and she would advocate for government accountability.

The 30th Senate District covers a huge swath of area that runs from West Los Angeles to the Westmont Area on the south, and includes historic South Los Angeles on the east side and mid-city on the north.

Sue Favor is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers, who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at newsroom@wavepublication.com.