The campaign to replace retiring Second District Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke arrived in Del Rey on October 22nd when the two men who are vying for the soon-to-be-vacant seat appeared at a community forum at Playa del Rey Elementary School.
State Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas and Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks addressed approximately 40 Del Rey residents at the candidate forum sponsored by the Del Rey Homeowners and Neighbors Association.
The contenders did not address each other, as they have in prior events. Each candidate appeared separately and answered questions from a moderator provided from the association’s board.
The questions related largely to countywide matters such as healthcare and the fiscal crisis.
Although Ridley-Thomas and Parks differ on many issues, they had similar views on healthcare.
Asked if they believed that healthcare is a right or a privilege, Ridley-Thomas responded, “It is absolutely, unequivocally a right.”
Parks, a former Los Angeles Police Department chief, agreed.
“There’s no question — healthcare is a right,” Parks said.
The candidates later took questions from the audience on topics such as development in adjacent communities such as Marina del Rey and Culver City, coping with gang violence, and local matters such as transportation and construction on the 405 Freeway near Culver Boulevard, which has produced inconveniences for Del Rey homeowners who live close to the freeway.
“I thought the forum was a complete success,” said Chris Nevil, the homeowners association president. “I think that the candidates did what they were there to do, and we got a window into what they would do as the next supervisor.”
Stephanie White was happy that Ridley-Thomas and Parks came to Del Rey to campaign.
“I really appreciated the opportunity to hear from both candidates,” said White, a Del Rey resident. “Del Rey tends to be overlooked by a lot of elected officials.”
Since the primary, where Ridley-Thomas won 46 percent of the vote to Parks’ 40 percent, the campaign has become increasingly negative, with both campaigns trading accusations regarding past and present ethical scandals.
Ridley-Thomas’s campaign organization asked the district attorney’s office last month to investigate the association between Parks and Helen Mars, one of the councilman’s chief contributors, who is also the owner of a Los Angeles printing company called California Litho-Arts. Representatives of the senator allege that Mars’ company has printed over $100,000 in campaign material for Parks, including flyers and brochures. Mars has also contributed financially to an independent expenditure group through the Coalition of Responsible Leadership, an organization that is supporting Parks.
“Mrs. Mars has contributed nearly $50,000 to an independent expenditure, while her company has printed over $100,000 in unpaid expenses for Mr. Parks,” alleged Fred MacFarland, a consultant who works for Ridley- Thomas. “Mrs. Mars cannot write off unpaid expenditures while participating in this campaign expenditure, because [that contribution] then becomes an illegal campaign loan.”
The Parks camp issued its own accusation about a controversial figure associated with Ridley-Thomas’s campaign. “It’s very surprising that Mr. MacFarland would make these allegations given his candidate’s close association with Tyrone Freeman,” said Bernard Parks Jr., the elder Parks’ campaign manager.
The younger Parks was referring to the beleaguered union leader of the Service Employees International Union who stepped down from his position in September in the wake of a federal probe into his union’s activities.
Freeman came under federal scrutiny after the Los Angeles Times reported that the organization and a related charity paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to firms owned by his wife and mother-in-law.
Freeman’s union and others have raised several million dollars for the senator in his campaign for supervisor.
White noted the combative tone of the race. “It started pretty negative,” she said.
“It seems to have been that way for a while.”
The Second District includes Del Rey, Mar Vista and portions of Playa del Rey and Westchester.