Bradford to run for lieutenant governor in 2026

By Antonio Ray Harvey 

Contributing Writer

SACRAMENTO — State Sen. Steven Bradford says the “time is right” and he is “up to the challenge” of becoming the next lieutenant governor of California.

Bradford, who serves as the vice chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, announced his bid for the second highest office in the state on April 22. The election will be held in 2026.

“I think it’s time we need someone in that office who is committed to doing the work,” Bradford told California Black Media. “It’s not a glamorous job. It’s an in-the-weeds job but it’s a job that impacts us every day.

“I want to do the work that is in front of me,” said Bradford, who has served in the Legislature for 15 years in both the Assembly and state Senate and will be term out at the end of this year. “That’s what my career has been about: doing the work of the position I’ve been elected to do.”

Bradford, 64, represents the 35th Senate District, which includes the cities of Inglewood, Compton, Gardena, Torrance, Carson, and Hawthorne and surrounding communities. 

Under California’s Constitution, the lieutenant governor serves as acting governor whenever the governor is absent from the state, and automatically becomes governor if a vacancy occurs. The lieutenant governor also serves as president of the state Senate and votes in case of a tie. 

Eleni Kounalakis is the current lieutenant governor, but her term in office is set to expire in 2026 due to term limits.

State Treasurer Fiona Ma also has declared her candidacy for lieutenant governor and has launched her campaign.

Bradford told California Black Media that he intends to visit every corner of the state to make the case that he is the person for the job.

“I have two years to touch all 58 counties,” he said. “It’s not going to be an easy task, but I am up for it. We have to let the people know what I’ve done and what I plan to do as lieutenant governor. I am excited about the opportunity.”

Bradford said he is following in the footsteps of Mervyn M. Dymally, his political mentor. Dymally was a trailblazing federal and state elected official representing Southern California. In 1974, Dymally made history by becoming California’s first Black lieutenant governor.

Dymally also served in both house of the state Legislature as well as the U.S. House of Representatives. He died in October 2021 at the age of 86.

“More importantly, that’s why I am running,” Bradford said of Dymally. “I want the challenge and I want to pay homage to the individual who got me involved in politics — that’s the state’s first and only African American lieutenant governor, Mervyn Dymally,” Bradford said.

Over the years, Bradford has championed legislation aimed at addressing racial disparities and advocated for justice in housing and property rights, police reform, as well as making the case for reparations for the descendants of enslaved Black Americans.

In 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 796 authored by Bradford. It authorized Los Angeles  County to return the beachfront property known as Bruce’s Beach to the family of the African-American couple Willa and Charles Bruce, who purchased the Manhattan Beach site in 1912. However, the property was confiscated in the late 1920s through eminent domain.

Newsom also signed Bradford’s SB 2 into law. Also known as the Kenneth Ross Jr. Police Decertification Act of 2021, SB 2 was designed to increase law enforcement’s accountability that corrodes public respect and enforcement officers who commit serious misconduct and illegally violate a person’s civil rights.

SB 2 created a statewide decertification system to withdraw the certification of a peace officer in California following the conviction of serious crimes or termination from employment due to misconduct.

Bradford served two years on the first-in-the-nation Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans.

Bradford and eight other members of the task force analyzed the institution of slavery and its continuous effects on Black Americans.

Another bill Bradford authored, SB 1403, proposes the establishment of a new state agency called the California American Freedman Affairs Agency. The agency, a direct recommendation of the reparations task force, would be responsible for setting up the infrastructure required to manage reparations activities as directed by the Legislature and governor.

On May 16, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 5-2 to approve SB 1403. It now moves to the Senate Floor for a consideration.

“Our state is experiencing a significant economic downturn,” Bradford said. “People across California are struggling. Housing costs are out of reach, homelessness is at crisis levels, [with] the global threat of climate change, underfunded schools and debt-inducing higher education costs. While California has led the nation on enacting smart, forward-thinking policies, the reality is that we must do more to solve our many challenges.”

Antonio Ray Harvey is a reporter for California Black Media.

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