Our Weekly Los Angeles Cover Art for the Assembly race in the 54th District. (304520)
Our Weekly Los Angeles Cover Art for the Assembly race in the 54th District. Credit: Our Weekly LA

On Tuesday, May 18 a special primary election will be held to fill the Assembly seat for the 54th district, an area that includes a large swath of Los Angeles County, including Culver City, Mar Vista, Century City, Ladera Heights, Exposition Park, South LA, Westmont, parts of downtown LA and Inglewood.

Our Weekly asked the six candidates running for office three questions each:

  • If you had to pick one key initiative to uplift the 54th district what would it be?
  • What are your short-term and mid-term approaches to address the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the district?
  • What is the primary goal of your first 100 days in office, should you win the Assembly seat?

Isaac Bryan

Isaac Bryan looks at homelessness as a distinct qualifier for his election to California’s 54th Assembly District. Bryan has long focused on criminal justice reform, having been a founding director of the UCLA Black Policy Project, which worked to inform legislation in Sacramento regarding racial equity, housing justice, and environmental justice.

Bryan said he’s running for the 54th District seat not simply because he was reared and educated within the region, but because he recognizes the pressing issues affecting one of the Southland’s most diverse communities.

“I have the experience and track record of success we need to not just ‘talk the talk,’ but to do the work needed to fundamentally improve the lives of millions of Californians who have been left behind,” Bryan said.

Bryan elaborated that the district “means everything to me” in that he wants to take the lessons learned in youth to Sacramento and “represent what matters most to us.” He is particularly proud of his work in helping to pass Measure J. Homelessness, he explained, is a personal issue as one of his siblings was once arrested in San Diego for simply being without lodging.

“(Lo Angeles) has shifted toward a public health approach to homelessness, and not as one of criminality,” Bryan said. “Measure J was an impetus for my run for the State Assembly. I built diverse coalitions, and I’ve led historic reforms to help bridge the gap between inequality and opportunity.”

Bryan is endorsed by Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37), Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell (Second District), State Sen. Sydney Kamlager (30th District), and by Los Angeles City Councilmen Mark Ridley-Thomas (10th District) and Curren Price (Second District). He also has the backing of the California Teachers Association and the Los Angeles County Firefighters Local 1014.

Dallas Fowler

Dallas Fowler would like to legislate a moratorium on luxury developments that would displace thousands in low to moderate-income communities of color and work to identify key sites for very low to moderate-income housing.

“We should be treating this like the crisis this is and doing the work to get more people off the streets right away,” she said. “A thousand people will die on our streets this year for lack of adequate housing and nutrition. I have set a goal of making 5,000 units of affordable housing available through the acquisition of properties, development of current state-owned lots, or the enforcement of affordable units in existing developments funded by the state. I also set a goal of funding 1,000-bed dormitories with storage units that will include wrap-around supportive services that would get people prepared for permanent housing.”

“For the renters who are being pushed out of their buildings or feel like

they are under attack, I will stand up to slum lord tactics,” Fowler said. “The 35 percent of 54th Assembly District residents who are renters can count on me to ensure they know their rights as tenants and have access to proper representation when faced with eviction.”

Fowler’s short-term goals center around education and working to ensure school facilities have the proper ventilation and water filtration systems they need and adequate facilities so students can learn on-site.

Her long-term goals involve local business.

“I have worked in small business development for over 10 years and I am committed to ensuring we are pulling down the grants and other forms of assistance for our small local businesses to safely reopen,” Fowler said.

For a first 100 days accomplishment, Fowler said she would focus on the environment, stopping the privatization efforts of water companies; stopping the drilling happening in and around the district, and banning fracking in California. She also wants to work on creating environmentally-centered jobs.

“Funding a green careers program would bring over 500,000 thriving wage jobs to California centered around protecting and improving our environment,” she added.

Heather Hutt

Heather Hutt previously worked as director for Assemblyman Isadore Hall and former California Senator Kamala Harris in Sacramento. Her endorsements include Rep. Maxine Waters (D-43), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 18, as well as UA Locals 250 and 761 and Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, currently the only Black woman in the California State Assembly.

Hutt’s key initiative is the homelessness issue.

“I have a relationship with Congresswoman Waters and what we know is a bill from the Biden-Harris administration proposes billions of dollars that are available for the infrastructure will include money to address homelessness and I would tap on that,” she said, noting that the bill could bring a lot of jobs, including union careers, into the district. “We have a lot of dilapidated structures that have to be repaired or replaced.”

As for her approaches to addressing the pandemic’s impacts, Huff said she would first implement a program to ask high tech, utility, and computer companies to help close the gap between families who have internet access and the many who do not.

“We know that education is a great equalizer. We need to give companies tax credits to donate devices to our children for the next 18 months to educate our children and catch them up.”

“I would go to the device retailers and manufacturers and say ‘give our students devices,” Hutt said. “Give those companies a tax credit.”

As for her primary goal during her first 100 days in office, Hutt said that she is interested in the bills which Assemblymembers Steve Bradford and Chris Holden have authored regarding law enforcement officers.

“AB26 holds partners accountable for any misconduct of a fellow officer that occurs in their sight,” Hutt said, adding that she also supports another proposed bill that would require applicants to have a college education in order to become an officer. “That you can’t just come out of high school and carry a gun. I’m interested in voting for that bill, I believe in that and would jump on that.”

Samuel Robert Morales

Samuel Robert Morales considers himself a champion of low-income housing. He believes that advocacy makes him best suited to represent the 54th Assembly District.

“That’s the most important issue facing residents of the district. One hundred percent,” said Morales, operator of an educational services firm. A bank executive by trade, Morales has long specialized in urban planning and commercial development. Those qualities, he said, make him the “smart choice” to head to Sacramento

“I want to ensure that federal dollars reach the affected areas, particularly in reference to rebounding from the pandemic, getting people back to work and addressing the epidemic or homelessness that has touched most every neighborhood,” Morales said. The money “is there,” Morales explained by virtue of the COVID-19 Relief Bill. “We have to make sure that these federal funds are allocated to those who need it most.”

The pandemic has revealed startling disparities in access to healthcare and quality education. Morales advocates public-private partnerships to address both of these issues, along with the need for more affordable housing—which he would like to see developed along the commercial areas of the city’s mass transit corridors.

“We have the means to tackle these issues and more,” Morales said. “What is needed is someone who will advocate for the families hard-hit by the pandemic, job loss and the housing shortage. I’m the candidate who will take on these issues and strive everyday to make a positive difference for my constituents.”

Bernard Senter

Bernard Senter is running on behalf of the Socialist Workers Party. His key initiative is to organize to fight growing employer attacks on wages and working conditions.

“We need to build solidarity with coal miners on strike in Alabama and steelworkers on strike in Pennsylvania and other states,” he said. “For a sliding scale of hours and wages to stop layoffs and to protect workers from the effects of runaway prices. Cut the workweek with no cut in pay.”

In addressing the impacts of the pandemic, Senter is focused on jobs.

“Our unions need to fight for a federal government-financed public works program to put millions to work at union-scale wages building hospitals, schools, housing, mass transportation and much more that workers need.

Senter’s primary goal in a possible first 100 days the assembly: “I will mobilize as much solidarity as possible for workers currently on strike such as coal miners in Alabama and steelworkers in Pennsylvania and other states,” he said. “Similar battles will break out in our area soon. The success of these fights by workers against assaults by the bosses on their working conditions and living standards depends on our unions and others organizing massive support. We can use the momentum to break with the twin parties of the ruling rich and form a labor party.

Cheryl Turner

Cheryl Turner is an attorney, a state commissioner and president of a local housing association. Born and raised in the district, she attended public schools there before starting her own law firm.

When asked to pinpoint a key initiative for the district, she admitted that there are plenty to choose from, but that all the challenges in the area come back to providing employment opportunities.

“It would be a jobs initiative,” Turner said. “With the economy being shut down, businesses have closed and major industries have closed where people have had jobs. We have to do everything we can to reopen those businesses so the employees can provide for their families.”

In addressing the pandemic’s impacts on the district, Turner noted that some of the pandemic-related low interest loan and grant programs have failed some employers, workers, renters and landlords.

“I’m concerned if we don’t do something quickly people may be facing evictions and foreclosure,” she said. “Right now programs are being provided, but there are flaws, because they are new programs. Need to come up with a plan to sustain the programs.”

In her first 100 days, Turner said she would work on rental and mortgage assistance paying programs and help people catch up on their utility bills, post pandemic.

“It’s about reopening the economy, so people can return to jobs,” she said, noting that safe jobs, schools, housing for the homeless and healthcare all need to get back on line.