SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The top three Black women representing constituents living in the 54th Assembly District have bypassed three qualified female candidates in favor of a man to succeed Sydney Kamlager-Dove.
Kamlager-Dove left her post last month after winning a special election last month to represent the 30th State Senate District after the departure of Holly Mitchell, who was elected to the Board of Supervisors last fall.
Kamlager-Dove, Mitchell and U.S. Rep. Karen Bass are throwing their support behind Isaac Bryan, who previously worked for Kamlager-Dove, in the race for the 54th Assembly District set for a special election May 18.
Bryan only recently came on the area’s political radar while serving as co-chair of Measure J, a county ballot measure on the November ballot that sought to reduce funding for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and investing money in alternatives to incarceration.
He is described as his backers as a “social justice warrior” ready to lead on day one.
“Isaac is the right person to represent the 54th Assembly District,” Bass said.
“I support Isaac Bryan because he has proven to be an effective driver of change,” Kamlager-Dove said.
“Isaac is at the forefront of the movement to fundamentally change the justice system,” Mitchell added.
But Mitchell, who serves as a member of the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, recently voted to increase that agency’s current law enforcement contract by $36 million through the end of 2021.
“I did not vote against the proposal but did request staff come back to look at ways to compensate members of the advisory committee, and also look into investing into train ambassadors in place of law enforcement,” Mitchell said.
Bryan declined to comment on Mitchell’s vote to increase funding to law enforcement, while publicly supporting his advocacy to defund the police.
His critics point out that Bryan didn’t register to vote for the first time until 2016.
2UrbanGirls reached out to the three women who are leading candidates to succeed Kamlager-Dove and were taken aback that their qualifications were overlooked in the endorsement process.
Kamlager-Dove and Assemblywoman Autumn Burke are the only Black women serving in the California State Legislature.
Black women were on the front lines of the 2020 election, working to ensure that eligible voters had their voices heard at the polls. Women candidates are concerned that their consistent and long-term contributions to advancing Democratic Party values are being ignored.
“It is no secret that Black women are underrepresented in government,” said Heather Hutt, former state director for then-Sen. Kamala Harris. “I’m more than qualified for the seat. I worked in the state Assembly where we passed AB-233, AB- 2125, ACR-24, AB 352, which made foster care facilities smoke free.
“I’m especially proud of AB 974, the patient transfer bill where I testified and it passed unanimously. In the state Senate, where we passed SB 63, SB 399, and SJR 20, a gun violence research bill which lifts an existing prohibition against publicly funded scientific research on the causes of gun violence and the effects on public health and I also worked on a bill to protect pregnant black women, the Momnibus Act of 2020 that requires implicit bias training in hospitals and clinics.”
Hutt believes that the endorsements could prevent other African-American women from seeking office.
“Their endorsement could discourage women from seeking office especially when women are making statements about supporting Black women, but are not supporting a qualified Black woman,” Hutt said. “It’s the same fight that Black women have had all their lives, for equity, equality and a seat at the table. Just like in the workplace where Black women and women of color are overworked, underpaid and overlooked.”
Hutt has received endorsements from Assemblymen Mike Gipson and Reggie Jones-Sawyer, Supervisor Janice Hahn, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and former Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson Jr.
Candidate Cheryl Turner, also believes the endorsement sent the wrong message to the community that a woman isn’t capable of leading the district after two Black women held the seat for the last decade.
“I am disappointed that our three women elected officials, Sydney Kamlager, Holly Mitchell and Karen Bass chose to support the candidacy of a man over the three women candidates in the race for the 54th Assembly District seat and although Black males should also be supported, all three of those elected officials sought support based on a platform of either the need to put a Black woman in office; creating an all female Board of Supervisors, or on appointing another Black woman to the U.S. Senate,” Turner said. “It is my understanding that at least one of them has worked with the male candidate in the race. Politics will be politics and there is something to be said for showing loyalty to someone that you have worked with in the past and that you can easily influence.”
Dallas Fowler, who is also on the May 18 ballot, declined to respond by press time.
Also on the ballot are Samuel Robert Morales, a financial advisor and entrepreneur; and retail grocery worker Bernard Senter, who appears on the ballot as a candidate with no party preference because there are not enough voters who have registered as members of the Socialist Workers Party for it to qualify as an official party.
If no candidate receives a majority of the vote May 18, a runoff will be held July 20 among the top two finishers.
The 54th Assembly District includes Baldwin Hills, Cheviot Hills, the Crenshaw district, Century City, Culver City, Ladera Heights, Mar Vista, Palms, Rancho Park, Westwood and parts of South Los Angeles and Inglewood.
2 Urban Girls is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the Compton and Inglewood areas. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.