A local Democratic assemblywoman is planning a move that will place her in a newly drawn legislative district, but several of her current constituents are urging her to stay and fight for a seat some feel could wind up in the hands of a Republican.
Assemblywoman Betsy Butler (D-Marina del Rey) confirmed to The Argonaut that she will be a candidate for the newly drawn 50th Assembly District, which encompasses Santa Monica and Malibu.
The current 53rd District, which Butler represents, would be broken into two new ones if the final boundary maps are approved by the state Legislature: the 62nd, which will include Venice, Marina del Rey and communities east of Westchester, and the 66th, which will likely become a more politically conservative district made up of South Bay coastal cities and Palos Verdes.
As of Sept. 7, approximately 221 people had signed the pledge, encouraging the assemblywoman to run in the new South Bay district to prevent an Assembly seat from going to Republican Nathan Mintz.
“We need you to stay in the South Bay and run in the 66th Assembly District as the Democratic incumbent,” the petition reads. “Because without you in the race, the declared Tea Party candidate, Nathan Mintz, will certainly win.
“As our representative in the state Assembly, we know you’ve done your best to make sure we have a voice in Sacramento. We know you’ve gotten our back,” the petition continues. “Now it’s our turn to get yours. If you stay and fight the Tea Party, we will fight with you. We will pledge you our money and our time… We will fight like hell to keep the South Bay blue and you as our representative in Sacramento.”
Butler defeated Mintz in the 2010 53rd District Assembly race.
The organizer of the petition drive is a Venice community organizer named Marta Evry, who said she decided on gathering signatures when she heard that Butler was contemplating a move to the 50th last month. “We don’t have any viable candidates in the 66th District,” said Evry, a film editor for television and film. “There are too many candidates that will be running in the 50th, and since Democrats are a few seats away from a two thirds majority in the Assembly, we don’t think it’s a good idea (that Butler change districts.)”
Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom has also entered the race for the 50th as has Torie Osborn, who was the executive director of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.
While Evry says her reasons for the petition drive are primarily to keep a Democratic seat in the party’s hands, others are not so sure those are her only motives.
Evry is listed as the photographer on Osborn’s website and has taken several official photos for the candidate’s site. The Venice community activist appears to be one of Osborn’s biggest backers, a fact that is not lost on Butler.
“I think it’s very generous (what Evry is doing), but I’ve been a Westsider for 24 years and I am considered the incumbent in the 50th District,” said Butler in her first interview since she decided to seek the 50th Assembly seat. “The Westside is my love.”
In a July 31 post on her Venice for Change website, Evry writes about a possible move by Butler to the district in which Osborn will be running and claims that Assembly Speaker John Per/z has been making calls to incumbents to ask that they move to new districts. She wrote sources claim that one of those members was Butler.
In the same post, Evry wrote Butler would not have the advantages that an incumbent traditionally enjoys if she runs in the 50th District. “Although a sitting Assembly member, Butler will not have the benefits of incumbency in her new district,” the community organizer wrote. “She’ll face off against a number of candidates already running for the seat who have strong ties to the district, including Torie Osborn, who has raised over $300, 000.”
Per/z spokesman John Vigna said the Assembly speaker on previous occasions has asked all Democrats do what they think is best for the party.
“The speaker has said to every member of the Democratic caucus many times that they should consider their options with respect to redistricting and make the best decisions for the Democratic Party and the Assembly caucus,” Vigna said.
Evry labels Osborn the “frontrunner” and lists her endorsements, which included Assemblywoman Julia Brownly (D-Santa Monica), former state senator and Assemblywoman Shelia Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) and Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl.
Evry acknowledges that she supports Osborn but says she backs Butler also. “But the issue really is about the 66th District, not about Torie,” she insisted.
Butler said she is more compatible with the new 50th District and that is one of the primary reasons, in addition to her love of the Westside, why she will be moving to the new Assembly district. “I have a very strong environmental record, so it’s not as though residents (in the 50th) won’t know about my beliefs and my record,” said the assemblywoman, who has worked previously for the California League of Conservation Voters and the Environmental Defense Fund.
Venice resident Linda Lucks is a fan of Butler’s and feels that she should be allowed to compete in the race of her choice. “I think that she has been a very successful assemblywoman in the short time that she has been in the Assembly,” said Lucks, the president of the Venice Neighborhood Council. “And I think that as an incumbent, she should have the right to run in the district of her choice.”
Another reason for the signature gathering campaign is to entice Butler to speak directly to many of the voters who elected her, according to Evry. “I really want her to have a conversation with her constituents, because that’s what’s been missing,” said Evry, who added that Butler had not returned her phone calls. “By moving north, she’s leaving the district vulnerable.”
Butler, who on Sept. 6 had legislation outlawing fee gouging by third party agents of homeowners associations that she sponsored signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, reiterated that her track record is well-suited to the district where she plans to run and said she plans to serve residents of the 50th as she has her current constituents in the 53rd.
“I have worked very hard for the ideals of Westsiders and for most Californians,” the assemblywoman concluded. “I think that I’m a very good advocate for the ideals of the 50th District.”