The race between Bernard Parks and Mark Ridley-Thomas to take over the seat being vacated by retiring Yvonne B. Burke on the powerful Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has in part become a campaign of accusations, innuendoes and for some, mudslinging.
But conversations with both men reveal that neither feels the accusations being hurled back and forth are mudslinging. Instead the two candidates for this $178,789-a-year job, view what they are doing as critical information that pinpoints a key issue in the campaign–integrity.
“I think it (the questions raised) serves constituents in two ways,” said 8th District Councilman Parks. “One is to bring to the attention of constituents something that should be of concern to them about the character, an individual’s honesty and integrity. . . . I don’t think it’s mud if its accurate information.
“We believe in the Democratic process and people want honest representation, and (I need to) clearly distinguish myself from a group of people who show a history of a level of dishonesty and how a candidate is intertwined in that.
“We view it as mudslinging when people go out and misrepresents the facts, and create materials that have no bearing on the campaign. They throw out volumes of mud hoping some will stick,” Parks added.
For Senator Ridley-Thomas, his approach is also about exposing what he sees as the truth.
“. . . A number of people have said to me, ‘good you should expose him for who he is. He’s not who we thought he was.’ That’s what they’re saying.
“If I don’t do that as a candidate, I can disadvantage my candidacy by my unwillingness to expose him. I would give the advantage to my opponent, which is not my objective. My objective is win the race fair and square.
“The issue (here) is integrity in government. That is the fundamental issue . . . When I expose matters that are violations of law, it isn’t that I’m being negative; it’s being accountable to constituents who want elected officials to be honorable. If these allegations are sustained, it points out in no uncertain terms the integrity issue,” said Ridley-Thomas, who believes it’s vital to respond to any attack because people believe what they hear.
Both candidates believe that the negative campaigning cannot be the sole focus of an effort, but must be combined with reports that tout their respective records and accomplishments.
Among the charges that have been leveled are that Mark Ridley-Thomas supporter Maria Elena Durazo inaccurately accused Parks of bringing WalMart into the Crenshaw mall. Parks has also noted that former union powerhouse Tyrone Freeman is under investigation by the District Attorney, the U.S. Attorney General and the Grand Jury. Parks said the Ridley-Thomas campaign has received campaign funding from this union boss who is being accused of improperly spending money.
Parks also claims he is cleaning up the “mess” Ridley-Thomas made of the Marlton Square development project muscling out Earvin “Magic” Johnsn as the developer in favor of Chris Hammond, who has been unable to move the project forward.
At the same time, Ridley-Thomas has called for an investigation into what he calls the illegal “funding” of Parks campaign by a South Los Angeles printing company. The state senator also believes that because the print company owner is a contractor with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and Parks is a member of the board which votes on contracts, there may be a conflict of interest.
Ridley-Thomas has also noted reports that during the Rampart scandal in the Los Angeles Police Department, as chief, Parks was “disruptive” and cost the city money.
Both candidates say it is important to have all of this “information” come to the surface, because they feel the way an individual has operated in the past may very well be the way that person operates in the future.