With Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager, a Democrat, moving to the state Senate, voters in West and South Los Angeles will head to the polls to select her replacement on May 18.
Six candidates – five Democrats and one unaffiliated – are running for a seat representing the heavily Democrat-leaning 54th District, which includes Mid City, as well as Culver City, Century City, Inglewood, Westwood and other parts of West Los Angeles. If none of the candidates receive more than 50% of the votes, the two top vote-getters will head to a runoff on July 20.
The voter registration deadline has passed. All registered voters will be mailed a ballot, and voters are encouraged to safely participate in the election by returning their mailed ballot. Voters who need or prefer to vote in-person will have that option available, with all voting locations strictly following public health and safety guidelines related to COVID-19. A list of locations can be found at lavote.net.
The Beverly Press and Park Labrea News reached out to the seven candidates about their experience and priorities. Their responses, some of which have been edited for length and clarity, are presented in alphabetical order.
Isaac Bryan (Democrat)
Bryan, an educator at UCLA and community organizer, said he’s overcome obstacles throughout his life, and that his decision to run was a choice to give back and help others.
He is one of nine adopted children in a family of 15 and said he earned a master’s degree despite failing out of middle school, attending three high schools and supporting himself through college, all products of what he called broken child welfare and education systems, and economic inequity.
Bryan, who picked up Kamlager’s endorsement, has experience as a co-chair of L.A. County’s successful Measure J campaign, which funded youth development, small business support, alternatives to incarcerations and other community investments. He is the founder of a think tank at UCLA dedicated to advancing racial equity. He also was appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti to serve on the redistricting commission of L.A. Unified School District.
He said his priorities are equitable recovery from COVID-19, reimagining the criminal legal system, and social and environmental justice.
“Social and environmental justice that guarantees our basic rights – housing, clean air and water, quality, affordable health care for all – and establishes a Green New Deal to transition to 100% renewable energy before the end of this decade,” he said.
Dallas Fowler (Democrat)
Fowler, a longtime political consultant and nonprofit leader, said she hopes her experience in construction and work with funding housing projects will help her with her top campaign issue: affordable housing and housing the homeless. She said she’s committed to bringing 5,000 affordable units to the district while protecting single-family communities.
She began her career in construction, working on more than 20 publicly funded projects, before transitioning into consulting. She has worked on political campaigns for more than 20 years, including as a delegate for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during the 2016 and 2020 Democratic National Conventions. She also is a former Los Angeles commissioner and grant panelist and was on the LAPD Police Permit Review Board.
Fowler said her other key campaign issues include the environment, economic recovery and equity.
“[I] will work to fund 500,000 green careers in California reshaping our ecology, improving our air quality, banning fracking, cleaning our oceans and stopping the privatization of our water,” she said. “[I am] also really concerned with our overall economic recovery and [am] committed to pulling down the resources to assist our small businesses in their efforts to reopen and expand small business throughout our district and state. [I] will fight for universal child care, criminal justice reform, health care for all and protect public education.”
Heather Hutt (Democrat)
Hutt, who has a long track record of work with public service and community outreach, is hoping to parlay a recent stop as the first Black U.S. Senate state director in the state’s history into a spot in the Assembly.
She said she used her platform to stand up for women and bring health care professionals together to discuss implicit bias in health care, as well as advocated for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program recipients against policy changes crafted by the former Trump administration. She also has experience advocating for environmental justice, as well as activism to ensure civil rights, human rights, women’s rights and social justice.
Hutt said that her most pressing issue is housing reform.
“For years, California has clearly been in a housing crisis, with a dire need for more affordable housing,” she said. “Over the past several years, our region has passed a lot of bond measures calling for more affordable housing, but few have been built. We need to ensure that these units actually get built, and that the process happens more quickly. Also, we must really rethink what our community housing looks like to ensure that the so-called affordable housing units are actually affordable for working families.”
Samuel Robert Morales (Democrat)
Morales is hoping his experience working within his neighborhood, as well as professional experience, earns him a role in the state Assembly where he can combat housing issues in the district.
He is a former elected homeowner’s representative on the West Adams Neighborhood Council and has 15 years of experience working in financial services and another 12 years working in marketing and public relations. He indicated in a recent television interview that he hopes his status as the only Latino candidate will appeal to a district with a large Latino population. He also said, as the son of a military policeman, he does not endorse defunding the police, but does support reform.
Morales said he supports building low-income and affordable housing along the commercial areas of mass transit corridors, like building housing at the major intersections along the Metro Expo Line at Crenshaw, La Brea and La Cienega.
“I do not support building high-density housing along the Expo Line that runs through single-family neighborhoods,” he said. “I believe low-income and affordable housing should be within walking distance to shopping. I would support tax incentives, loan guarantees and strengthening policies that encourage public/private partnerships.”
Bernard Senter (No Party Preference)
Senter, a longtime factory and grocery worker, is running to unite workers to fight against what he views as bosses taking advantage of the impact of COVID-19 to cut pay and impose dangerous working conditions.
He’s a member of the Social Workers Party, having joined in 1969 to participate in the overturning of Jim Crow laws and other civil rights battles. He was a factory worker for many years, including in steel plants organized by the United Steelworkers union and meatpacking plants organized by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. He’s currently a retail grocery worker at Walmart.
He said that he’s spent his activism career organizing solidarity for workers’ struggles to defend themselves and has joined protests demanding prosecution of police officers who kill and brutalize people. He’s advocating for amnesty for all undocumented immigrants and is hoping to organize to fight what he views as growing employer attacks.
“Our unions should lead a class break from the bosses’ parties, the Democrats and Republicans, by forming our own party, a Labor Party,” he said. “Workers need to wrest control of production out of the hands of the bosses since all they care about are profits and not the conditions we work under and safety.”
Cheryl Turner (Democrat)
Turner, an attorney who focuses on environmental, consumer and civil rights law, said that her more than 20 years of experience representing and advocating for others will help her find solutions for constituents.
She said that she has a long history of advocacy conducting meetings with members of the state legislature to give input on proposed bills involving consumer rights, criminal and civil justice and housing laws.
She said that has made her able to understand, propose and negotiate new laws that will benefit the community.
Turner currently serves as a commissioner managing a state agency that oversees health care issues, is president of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles and has experience fighting for legal justice as a small-business owner.
Her main campaign issues are the response to the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on education, housing and the economy.
She also wants to use her experience to solve issues with homelessness and housing, creating a universal health care system, promoting environmental sustainability and keeping the community informed with an open-door policy.