Having worked as a field deputy to Congresswoman Maxine Waters for most of this decade, Edgar Saenz learned firsthand the important role that local issues have for constituents.

Whether through sitting in on neighborhood meetings with stakeholders and listening to concerns of community leaders and businesses as a field representative, or through advocating for certain issues as a resident, Saenz became familiar with the various topics that residents of the local area are passionate about.

It is his desire to move forward on many of those same issues, including light rail transportation to Los Angeles International Airport and a dog beach at Dockweiler State Beach, that pushed Saenz to seek the 53rd District Assembly seat currently held by Ted Lieu in the June 8th Democratic primary. Though he is one of eight candidates vying for the position, Saenz believes his knowledge of district issues, which he is emphasizing heavily in his campaign, is what sets him apart from the others.

“I am running because I believe I have something to offer in terms of leadership and priorities that match the needs of the district,” Saenz said.

“I care about local issues and I’ve made district issues a big part of why I’m running.”

Saenz, who has lived in Westchester since 2002, practiced civil litigation in the Los Angeles area for 17 years prior to being appointed Waters’ field representative for the communities of Westchester, Del Rey, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista and LAX in 2003.

As a Westchester resident, he says he took on a community activist role fighting proposed airport expansion and working to protect open space at the Ballona Wetlands, as well as held a leadership position with the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion. These experiences, he believes, are what have prepared him to become the next Assembly member in the 53rd District.

“I think my experience with community advocacy, civil litigation and public service give me a background to do a good job as Assembly member,” Saenz told The Argonaut in a recent interview in Westchester.

He described his time working for the prominent congresswoman as an “invaluable experience” that taught him about public policy, how to deal with pressure and gave him life experience interacting with a wide range of interests in the community.

Saenz said the 53rd District, which stretches from Lomita and Torrance north to Venice and West Los Angeles, covers a “beautiful coastal area” consisting of distinct communities and he would consider it a privilege to represent the area on the state level.

“It would be a lot of work but it would be liberating,” he predicted.

Referring to the state’s troubles regarding the environment, economy and high unemployment, Saenz said that in addition to addressing those challenges, the next Assembly member must also focus on solving problems locally.

“It’s a race for the Assembly and the next person had better understand that in addition to the state issues, they’ve got to deliver on the local level and I think that’s what sets me apart,” Saenz explained.

As Assembly member, Saenz said he would plan to be ubiquitous in the district to stay informed of the pressing issues. Among the first issues he would work to address are concerns of residents on air pollution and other effects at Santa Monica Airport.

Saenz joined his primary opponents in signing a pledge initiated by congressional candidate Marcy Winograd to not use jets at Santa Monica Airport, saying it was important to nearby residents. He adds that the impacts associated with the airport could be attacked on a number of fronts, including cutting the idling times of jets on the runway, deploying runway safety buffers and conducting air quality testing.

Another primary focus for Saenz would be pushing mass transit needs for the district, which is among the most congested in Los Angeles.

“The transit needs of the district are desperate; we need to give people an alternative to their cars,” the candidate said.

Among the projects he supports are the Metro Exposition Line light rail extension to Santa Monica and the Green Line extension to LAX, calling the city’s current connection to the airport “bush league.”

“A true world class airport has rail transit connectivity,” Saenz responded to his support for the Green Line.

One issue he has backed that he says is unique to his campaign is a pilot program establishing a stretch of beach, most likely at Dockweiler in Playa del Rey, where dogs could roam off-leash. The proposal was initiated by the late Assemblyman Mike Gordon before his death in 2005, and Saenz said the beach would give the many dog owners a place for their pets to recreate while helping dog-related businesses.

“There are 60 dog beaches in the state of California so it’s not like we’re inventing the wheel,” said Saenz, adding that Dockweiler is an ideal location because it’s a state beach.

As the campaign approaches its final weeks, Saenz said he plans to continue canvassing all across the district to spread his message to the voters and believes his campaign team has put him in a position to win.

“I talk about the issues that matter to the 450,000 people in the Assembly district and I’ll keep faith with this district,” Saenz responded as to why voters should choose him June 8th.