With less than a week to go before the 2010 mid-term elections, candidates for state and national offices are staking out their final positions as they get ready for the all-out sprint to the election day finish line.
Incumbent Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Westchester) is seeking her 10th term in the 35th Congressional District race. Her opponent is Republican CEO/ gang interventionist Bruce Brown.
In the 53rd Assembly District, Republican Nathan Mintz is squaring off against Democrat Betsy Butler, a Marina del Rey resident. And in the 28th state Senate District, Sen. Jenny Oropeza will remain on the ballot against Republican John Stammreich and Libertarian David Ruskin. A special election will be held after Dec. 6 if Oropeza, who passed away Oct. 20, wins.
“California is better because of the legacy of legislation under Jenny’s name,” said Ray Sotero, the late senator’s communications director. “She will definitely be missed.”
In an interview with the Contra Coast Times, Stammreich, an aerospace supply manager, listed the two things that he will focus on if elected.
“My priorities are, number one, bringing back private-sector jobs to the South Bay,” the contender said. “Number two is to protect our local taxes from Sacramento politicians.”
He also feels that government spending is out of control. “I don’t think we are getting our money’s worth,” Stammreich said.
He did not return calls to The Argonaut for comment.
Brown says he does not represent a Republican stereotype that cares little about minority communities, and believes that he has an untapped groundswell of supporters who stand ready to vote for him on Nov. 2 due to the work that he has done in South Los Angeles.
“When people spend time with me, they learn that I really do care, so I think we have a strong Democrat support base,” he claimed. “I’m not interested in an ideological war.”
Waters appeared to be confident that voters remain happy with her work in Congress.
“I’m encouraged by the support for me that people express during our conversations and in the many calls, e-mail messages and letters I receive,” the congresswoman said.
“They regard me as a fighter, someone who stands up for what I believe in and fights for the interests of those whom I represent,” Waters continued. “Even when times are tough, they appreciate that I am working hard to protect homeowners, support education, protect Social Security, encourage lending to small businesses who create jobs and to keep health insurance rates from escalating.”
Brown claims that despite a lack of name recognition, he has a better chance to defeat Waters than some might think.
“According to our internal polling, we stand now at about 54-46 (percent),” Brown said in a recent interview. “I don’t have the public name recognition partly because I haven’t sought it because it’s so typical of a politician to just be flashy.”
Mintz and Butler are vying for a seat currently held by Assemblyman Ted Lieu, who is leaving office due to term limits.
Mintz said his campaign is inspiring residents of the coastal district, which spans from Torrance to Marina del Rey.
“We’re gaining momentum,” the Republican candidate, an aerospace engineer, told The Argonaut. “We’ve seen a strong groundswell of support throughout the district.”
Butler, a fundraiser for the Consumer Attorneys of California, says her focus has been on attracting jobs, especially “green jobs,” to the district.
“That’s one of the things that I hear as I go door-to-door, is that people want jobs,” she said. “I want to move the state toward a greener economy, and this district is perfectly poised to do so.”
The district’s demographics favor Butler, with Democrats’ registration outnumbering Republicans 42.5 percent to 30.3. “Declined to state” voters also make up a substantial percentage of the district at 22 percent.
Mintz, who has received backing from the South Bay Tea Party, knows that he has to attract a percentage of Democrats in order to win.
“(The Tea Party) is just one component of our campaign,” he said. “We’re receiving support from others as well because the one thing in common we have is that we’re all Californians.”
Robert Stern, the director of the Center for Governmental Studies, thinks that the races are essentially a foregone conclusion due to the demographics of the districts.
“The races were over in the primaries,” he said.
Butler says that “declined to state” voters in certain areas of the 53rd District seem to be more apathetic this year about the election. “It varies as you go from the different communities, depending on the level of frustration,” she said.
Members of Butler’s campaign have recently drawn attention to Mintz campaign signs that have been placed near the Ballona Wetlands ecological preserve along Jefferson and Culver boulevards. Mintz said he would take them down if anyone complained about them to his campaign office.
“If that’s the best that they can throw at me, then it’s going to be an interesting race,” he said with a laugh.
Venice Beach resident Lisa Green, a member of the Green Party, is also running for Lieu’s seat, as well as Libertarian Ethan Musulin.
In the congressional race, Brown acknowledged that Waters’ name was a hurdle that he has to climb, along with siphoning off a great deal of Democratic voters in the district in order to be victorious.
“In my case, you’ve got a 20-year incumbent. She has a past and a history that’s well known,” he conceded. “To try and bring a ‘positive’ spirited energy to a systemŠ it’s a challenge to have incredibly opposing viewpoints as to what works and keep it positive and inspirational.”
Waters pointed out a variety of local actions and projects that she has taken part in, and she feels these are why voters believe she deserves another term in Congress.
“I return to the district from Washington every week so I can stay in touch with constituents. They see me and speak with me regularly, they know where I stand and they like that I am focused on local interests in Westchester, Playa del Rey, Del Rey, Playa Vista and all the neighborhoods I represent,” she told The Argonaut. “For example, I have offered legislation to make Los Angeles International Airport safer and paid attention to attempts to expand the airport, which would inconvenience residents nearby with more noise and pollution.
“And Argonaut readers know of my successful efforts to help persuade T-Mobile not to build a cellular tower in a Westchester residential area and to resume mail delivery at Mar Vista Gardens after it had been suspended,” the congresswoman continued.
“These are examples of the work I have done by listening to and communicating with constituents in all the communities that make up the 35th District. People here know that I have a record of getting results and providing effective leadership to represent them.”
The Ballona Wetlands, which lies in the 53rd District, has received a great deal of scrutiny in recent weeks after a series of Argonaut articles chronicled e-waste, debris and homeless encampments in the ecological preserve, which is owned by the state Department of Fish and Game.
The lack of enforcement has become a rallying cry from members of various environmental groups for more legislative attention to Ballona, and candidates have been candid in their calls for more action from the state.
Butler said that because Fish and Game’s budget had increased over the last three years, she would expect the department to devote more resources to enforcement, if she is elected. “They are ultimately responsible, and they need to be moving enforcement people, dollars and time to Ballona,” she said.
Mintz has called for a streamlining of state agencies responsible for Ballona to reduce the amount of confusion regarding enforcement.
In the 36th Congressional District race, which covers Venice to Palos Verdes, Venice resident Matty Fein and Libertarian Herb Peters are challenging incumbent Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice). Harman is vying for her fourth term in office since 2000. She previously served in Congress from 1993 until 1999.
Fein, a Republican, did not return calls seeking comment.
State Sen. Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica) is the incumbent in the 41 Assembly District, which represents communities including Santa Monica.
She is being challenged by Republican Terry Rathburn and Santa Monica resident Linda Piera- Availa of the Green Party.