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Fred Thompson makes history in Palmdale

Becomes first Black council member

Merdies Hayes | 11/15/2013, midnight
Fred Thompson, a former dean and member of the board of directors at Antelope Valley College, last week became the ...

“The next step in the process is for the Court of Appeals to handle the certification of the election, which will most likely happen in December or January,” said Palmdale communications manager John Mylnar.

Thompson, endorsed by Ledford and a number of civic organizations, is a former city planning commissioner and became only the second minority to win election since the city’s incorporation in 1962. Richard Loa, a Latino, and former city councilman in the 1990s and the first elected minority, ran a tight race Nov. 5 against Thompson falling short by a little more than 300 votes. Thompson once garnered 13.34 percent of the vote in a 2007 city council bid.

“The citizens of Palmdale didn’t vote for me because of or, in spite of, the color of my skin—or theirs,” Thompson said. “They voted for me on Tuesday for the same reasons they voted for me 30 years ago: I understood the voters’ issues. I made myself known in the community. I had the support of other community leaders. I put the work in to get my message to the voters, and I ran an effective campaign. What part of that formula is this lawsuit trying to fix?”

Thompson elaborated that political campaigns can sometimes lead the electorate to focus on a single matter. “I understand the impulse to explain elections based on a single factor, in this case race, but you can’t do that in Palmdale,” he said. “You certainly can’t explain [Nov. 5] in Palmdale using race. In the race for the Palmdale School District, you had White candidates both win and lose; you had Hispanic candidates both win and lose. You had African Americans elected to both the City Council and the Palmdale School Board. The voting rights lawsuit gives the impression that this is a racist community, and it is not. There isn’t a neighborhood in Palmdale that you can drive into that isn’t integrated.”

Ledford was equally candid in explaining the election results. “Fred Thompson’s victory spits in the face of the plaintiff’s ridiculous argument that a minority candidate cannot win a citywide election in Palmdale,” Ledford said. “He is the latest in a long list of minority candidates who have won citywide elections in Palmdale, including school and water boards. I couldn’t be more proud of our citizens’ determination to make their voices heard despite multiple attempts by plaintiff’s attorneys to stifle their right to vote. They not only went to the polls, but they elected a member of a ‘protected class’ to the city council not because of the color of his skin, but because of the quality and merits of the candidate. This is exactly what Dr. King envisioned when he boldly proclaimed: ‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.’ Our residents deserve the right to vote, and I vow as mayor to ensure their rights are protected.”