Candidates compete for 33rd District seat

On June 8, voters will decide who will win Congresswoman Diane Watson’s 33rd District seat when she leaves office. On February 17, Watson announced she did not want to seek re-election this year because she wanted to spend time with her 100-year-old mother.

Whoever replaces Watson will work in one of the most diverse districts in California, Watson, who represented the district since 2001, said. There is a large population of South Koreans, the largest outside of South Korea, as well as a large number of Hispanics. The 33rd District is also home to Armenians, Pacific Islanders and African Americans.

Democrats in the upcoming race include Karen Bass, Morris F. Griffin, Nick Juan Mostert and Felton Newell. James L. Andion, David C. Crowley II and Phil Jennerjahn are the republican candidates.

Though Watson highly endorsed Bass, Bass said she will not take any part of this election for granted. The speaker emeritus of the California State Assembly said she has continued to walk neighborhoods, attended house meetings and sought endorsements.

“I feel that it is important for me to work at this level right now in terms of going to Congress,” Bass said, referring to Republican Scott Brown’s January victory over Martha Coakley for the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat. “Also, I think it is a question of respect. Respect for voters.”

For about 30 years, Bass has been involved in foreign and domestic issues. She founded Community Coalition, a community-based social justice organization. She started the organization about 20 years ago to deal with issues like drugs and crack cocaine addiction, which Bass said led directly to the “explosion” in foster care. Other issues Bass has addressed include criminal justice reform, health care and affordable housing. Bass also became the first African-American woman to be elected Speaker of the California State Assembly.

When Bass was first elected to the Assembly, she organized People’s Council, a group of volunteer community leaders who attempted to involve constituents in the public policy process. If she is elected June 8, she said she will possibly use a similar strategy to address issues in the 33rd District.

“I don’t know what I will create this time, but what I plan to do is bring together the leaders who are in the People’s Council and do a half-day retreat and say, ‘Now it is a congressional district. What do you think we should do, how do you think it should be organized?’” Bass said.

One current focus is policy issues, Bass told the Los Angeles Watts Times. Though her main focus is not on campaign promises, health care, jobs and advancement of green technology remain areas of interest for Bass. Her main focus, however, is on June 8.

“From June 8 on, if I am successful, I will have six months” to work on policy matters, Bass said. “I need to learn the federal process. So I could make up stuff, but I do’t want to do that. After June 8, that’s when I want to spend the time learning the federal system and trying to see what is realistic.”

Karen Bass frontrunner for House seat

The upcoming June 8 elections may only be primaries. But in the 33rd District, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 6 to 1, the winner of the Democratic primary is a shoo-in to be elected.

Other primary races throughout the state have gotten heated. But retiring Rep. Diane Watson, 76, seems to have a clear successor in current State Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, whom Watson endorsed.

Bass also received endorsements from a host of other politicians, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Maxine Waters, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas – not to mention Magic Johnson.

Several factors prevented the race from turning into a more contentious campaign, like the one Watson won after the death of Rep. Julian Dixon, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Among them:

-Watson’s last-minute announcement came as a surprise to would-be candidates

-Bass entered quickly, and was a high-profile candidate

-By obtaining the support of both Watson and many other political figures, she scared away potential competitors

“It’s not a race, because [Bass] is pretty much the consensus choice,” Cal State Fullerton political scientist Raphael Sonenshein, told the Times. “And it’s not all that surprising, given her standing.”

But several candidates are still hoping to challenge her.  Her Democratic opponents include management consultant Mervin L. Evans; maintenance technician Morris F. Griffin; Howie Mandel; Nick Juan Mostert, an attorney and legislative analyst; criminal prosecutor Felton Newell. and postal worker Sheldon J. Tobias, the LA Wave reports.

Newell, who studied law under now-President Obama at the University of Chicago, took time off from his job to run.

He criticized Bass’s ties to special interest and said she didn’t do enough to oppose budget cuts, while Bass said she helped to save important programs.