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California Politics

Why Electing Christy Smith to Congress is Critical

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Christy Smith and friend Mark Gonzalez, Out Chair of the California Democratic Party (Photo via Smith Facebook)

Editor’s note: The following piece is private political commentary endorsing a candidate for office and is not an official endorsement by the Los Angeles Blade or its staff.

By Karen Ocamb | WEST HOLLYWOOD – So here we are — what feels like inches and seconds away from the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection when violent Confederate battle flag waving cult followers of Donald Trump breached the halls of Congress in an invasion not seen since the War of 1812.

With insurrectionist Ashli Babbitt’s spilled blood just outside the glass doors, with echoes of “hang Mike Pence” and serious death threats against Speaker Nancy Pelosi, impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff and “the Squad” hanging like a pall in the still-frenzied Capitol air, Vice President Mike Pence and shaken members of Congress bravely returned to the House chamber to complete the heretofore peaceful Constitutional transfer of power certifying that Joe Biden was the new President of the United States, despite a basket of deplorable Republicans continuing to spout Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election had been “stolen.”

Rep. Mike Garcia, (R-CA25) (R) with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, (R-GA) (Screenshot via C-SPAN January 6, 2021)

The year before, in 2019, Iowa Rep. Steve King was removed from his congressional committee assignments after asking the New York Times: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” Today, instead of being snubbed, similarly rebuked QAnon diva Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green is being courted, including by Rep. Mike Garcia of California’s 25th Congressional District.

On Jan. 5, the day before the insurrection — when Garcia voted to overturn the election results — Garcia consorted with “Stop the Steal” supporters outside the Capitol. The day before that, he tweeted “It’s time to fight like it’s 1776,” QAnon code for overthrowing the government to provoke the Second Coming of the American Revolution.

Rep. Mike Garcia, (R-CA25)
Screenshot of Television coverage of January 6, 2021 Capitol Insurrection

Christy Smith, a former California Assemblymember, Newhall School District board member, and policy analyst in the Clinton administration’s Department of Education, narrowly lost to GOP-PAC supported Garcia in 2020 in the purple-trending district. Smith feels a profound, critical civic responsibility to challenge the Trump fanboy again in the upcoming 2022 mid-term elections.

“The stakes have never been higher in my 52 years of life as an American,” Smith told me by phone the other day. “We are on the precipice of the most massive rollback of voting rights since the 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed in a bipartisan way. We are about to potentially see the Supreme Court strike down the reproductive protections in Roe v. Wade.

We will see then, shortly thereafter, hard-earned rights and protections for lots of communities fall by the wayside, including the LGBTQ-plus community. There has never been a time to fight harder or more vehemently for the liberal democratic institutions that we all believe in and that we know our framers intended for us to evolve with. And decidedly, the extremist right wing movement wants to stand in the way of that progress, and we simply can’t allow it.”

Christy Smith Election night 2020 (Photo via Smith)

Garcia is “up there with the worst of the worst of them,” she says, opposing every single measure aimed at social justice reform and judicial system reform…all in the name of a conservative movement that really has no agenda.”

I first became aware of Christy when she ran for the seat vacated by Katie Hill. But what really struck me about the Santa Clarita dynamo was learning how on Nov. 14, 2019 she immediately went to Saugus High School after she heard about the shooting there. (See Christy’s interview with KNBC’s Conan Nolan.) Usually, politicians do not rush toward danger like frontline heroes and journalists — they wait until it’s safe. Christy believes the framers of the Constitution would be appalled by today’s interpretation of the Second Amendment.

“As a school board member for nearly a decade, seeing five-year-olds practice active shooter drills is horrible. You’re teaching them what to do you in the event that someone comes to school specifically to hurt them! We have to stop,” Christy says. “So yes — darn straight I ran toward it when, very sadly, it happened in my community. I knew that the school administrators might need some assistance from the state, so I immediately went there to see what I could do. Right after that, I went straight to the park where I knew some of the kids had been dismissed, whose parents had not come yet. You’re talking about a community where there’s a lot of commuters. Parents were going to have to come back jobs in the Valley or in LA, and there were going to be kids there, sad and alone and scared and not knowing what came next. So, as a parent in the community where we all care about all of our kids, I needed to be there for them and will continue to be.”

Running for Congress against a Jan. 6 supporter who still flashes his old “fighter pilot” credentials to seduce fans of toxic masculinity, Christy — a self-described “policy nerd” — is eager to bring her, compassion, brains and experience to the House floor.

First on her agenda: “securing and shoring up our fundamental right in this country, which is our right to vote,” she says, “to make voting accessible and easy for people. It is of utmost importance because the roadmap that these conservatives have been on has been about manipulating and finding ways to win races where they didn’t actually win.”

Christy’s second top priority “is make sure that we continue to work for the American people who continue to struggle through a really rough economy going now into year three of this pandemic. So, we’ve had some economic recovery, thank goodness, based on the Biden agenda and what the Democrats have been to get to his desk. But we need to do more, we need to continue to make sure that people are keeping a roof over their head, keeping food on their table and have access to the basic medical care that’ll keep them safe during this crisis.”

And there’s the need “to protect other rights that the extremists are going after — whether that’s reproductive freedoms or LGBTQ rights, as well as looking at the crisis that has occurred in our public schools because of the pandemic.”  

Christy’s fighting for a fair future with “meaningful representation of the beautiful breadth and depth of diversity of this country and allow children to feel good about their future.”

Christy Smith between daughter Chandler and Zach Theberge with Andrew Taban on the right at LA Pride
(Photo via Smith)

Indeed, being an LGBTQ ally is an integral part of Christy’s family values. Her 22-year-old daughter Chandler’s best friend since kindergarten is an out gay man named Zach Theberge.

“He is just a wonderful young man and an aspiring costumer in the Hollywood industry who just recently finished fashion school,” Christy says. “The first and only time she got sent to the school office was defending him when he was being bullied for having come out during grade school. They attended senior prom together. He knew she was without a date and he is typically one who is very free with what he chooses to wear and he expresses himself beautifully.

But that night he showed up in his James-Bond-looking tux with white jacket and brought her a corsage and really rescued her from what was going to be a hard moment of going to senior prom on her own. So, he’s an incredible young man and we are all the better for having him be part of our life.”

Additionally, her youngest staff member Andrew Taban, whom she has mentored, is LGBTQ.  “He’s a gift to the cause, to our community and my life is made better by the fact that that he’s part of it. To me, the notion that these two young people who I consider family could see their life possibilities limited by an extreme movement that cares nothing for the hard-fought liberties — that those of you who have been in this fight for a long time have earned for them — it’s devastating to me. It’s something I’m simply not willing to accept,” she says.

Gio Pope working to elect Christy Smith
(Photo via Smith)

The “very motivated” out Gio Pope, 19, is currently her assistant political director and youth coordinator. “He is a young man with a bright future ahead of him,” Christy says. “I want young people to inherit a country that they can manage well, that they feel proud of, and that those of us who feel strongly about leaving them something good, we feel like we did our part.”

Christy is seriously concerned about the malaise afflicting Democrats. “Now is not time for people to sit home,” she says. “It is no easy task that is in front of us, and that’s why it is so imperative for every American who believes in a better future for us to participate. We have to really think about what we’re up against. And we all have to come together. We have to have each other’s back — and we have to show up.”

Christy Smith on Thanksgiving (Photo via Smith) 

I’m concerned about that malaise, as well, which is why I hope my endorsement of Christy Smith for Congress will help draw attention to this remarkable woman who stands up for us and does not cower before dangerous third-string Trump loons like Mike Garcia. 

Please join me in helping elect Christy Smith to Congress.

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Karen Ocamb is an award winning veteran journalist, who has chronicled the lives of LGBTQ+ people in Southern California for over 30 plus years.

California Politics

Lindsey Horvath elected to LA County Board of Supervisors

Horvath extended her appreciation to outcoming Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who had endorsed and backed her in the campaign to succeed her

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Lindsey Horvath (Screenshot/YouTube CBS Los Angeles)

LOS ANGELES – West Hollywood City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath won slightly more than a plurality of the vote gaining a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors representing District Three after State Senator Bob Hertzberg conceded Thursday afternoon.

In a statement released Hertzberg wrote; “I want to offer my sincere congratulations to Sup-Elect Horvath. The challenges LA faces are extraordinary and it’ll take someone with her work ethic to be successful. Thank you to everyone who has supported me- my family, friends, elected leaders, & residents across SD3.”

 

“I am humbled and honored that the voters have chosen me to serve as their next Supervisor. Their confidence and support fueled our people-powered campaign across the finish line, and I could not be more grateful for the opportunity to represent the people of District 3,” Horvath told supporters and county residents in a statement Thursday evening.

“I want to thank Senator Bob Hertzberg for his incredibly generous and kind phone call, for his commitment to public service, and for engaging in this hard fought campaign to make Los Angeles a better place. I welcome his supporters into the work we will all need to do together. Regardless of who you voted for, I will always work my heart out to represent you and the best interests of our communities,” she said.

She also extended her appreciation to outcoming Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who had endorsed and backed her in the campaign to succeed her in the seat.

SUPERVISOR 3RD DISTRICT

Candidate(s)VotesPercent
LINDSEY HORVATH (N)227,56152.24%
BOB HERTZBERG (N)208,01947.76%
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California Politics

Karen Bass elected as first woman mayor of Los Angeles

The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office is expected to certify the results on Dec. 5

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Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) (Photo Credit: Sam Garrett-Pate)

LOS ANGELES – Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif) has secured the votes to become the 43rd mayor of the City of Los Angeles, succeeding current mayor Eric Garcetti, according to projections from the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times though thousands of votes still remain to be counted.

In addition to being the first woman elected she is the second Black politician in the city’s 241-year history after the legendary Thomas Bradley who served as the 38th Mayor of Los Angeles from 1973 to 1993.

The congresswoman’s victory comes on the heels of one of the most expensive campaigns ever conducted in the city. The Los Angeles Times reported the 69-year-old Bass achieved victory despite real estate magnate Rick Caruso spending more than $100 million of his own fortune on his mayoral bid, shattering local spending records and pumping previously unprecedented sums into field outreach and TV advertising.

Caruso, 63, outspent Bass more than 11 to 1 but was ultimately unable to prevail as a former Republican in a sapphire-blue California city.

The campaign towards the end before election day because rancorous as the two candidates traded accusations and as the Times noted:

[…] as both candidates fought fire with fire. Much of the bombardment centered around one of the most prominent private institutions in the city, with Bass and Caruso attacking their opponent’s relationships to scandals at USC. Caruso also hit Bass for a speech she gave praising Scientology. Bass and her supporters frequently hammered Caruso for his Republican past, with her allies branding him as a “liar” and a “phony.”

The L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office is expected to certify the results on Dec. 5.

LOS ANGELES CITY GENERAL MUNICIPAL ELECTION Mayor

Candidate(s)VotesPercent
KAREN RUTH BASS (N)403,42753.06%
RICK J. CARUSO (N)356,84946.94%
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California Politics

Zbur is Assemblymember-elect as Abramson concedes

When Zbur is sworn in on December 5 and takes office, he will join the largest Legislative LGBTQ+ Caucus in California history

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Assemblymember-elect Rick Zbur chatting with constituents/voters last summer (Photo Credit: Zbur for Assembly)

LOS ANGELES – The latest election results released by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office on Tuesday indicated that former Equality California Executive Director and leading environmental attorney, Rick Chavez Zbur, had won the seat to represent California’s 51st Assembly District.

Zbur’s opponent Louis Abramson issued a statement of concession congratulating the Assemblymember-elect:

One of our campaign mantras is: The hard part comes after the hard part. Well, this is the hard part. While many votes are outstanding, we’re at 44.6%. Having been outspent nearly eight to one by a well known opponent, this achievement is incredible. Nonetheless, we don’t see a path to 50%+1. With a full heart and a grateful soul, it’s time to close this chapter.

I want to congratulate Rick Zbur on his victory in this race. I will do everything I can to help him succeed in confronting the existential challenges facing our shared community—homelessness, housing affordability, mental health reform, and climate change.

Rick ran with generosity and kindness. His previous work made California more equitable and just. It has been a privilege to campaign with him and to have the opportunity to advance that work. Rick will be an effective advocate for our district. I look forward to being his partner in repairing our world, and I invite you all to join me.” 

In an email to the Blade Tuesday afternoon, Zbur wrote:

As the votes continue to be counted, our campaign is confident that our margin of victory will continue to grow.  I’m incredibly humbled and grateful to the voters across AD-51 who powered our campaign to a victorious finish. We are proud that we won with a substantial margin in every city across the district.  This victory was only possible because of the dedication and effort of thousands of people —supporters, contributors, and volunteers who fueled our campaign, and I am incredibly grateful. I’m also deeply proud that my victory ensures that the 51st District—and the County of Los Angeles—finally has the LGBTQ+ representation in the State Assembly that it deserves

I would like to congratulate my opponent Louis Abramson for his dedication to our community, and for running an energetic campaign that was focused on the issues—many of which we agree about. I appreciate his gracious congratulations call yesterday and his offer to work together in the future to improve the lives of the people of California.

Our campaign was never about one person – it was about ensuring real change and lasting progress to improve the lives of the people of California and the 51st District. It was about assuring that our government tackles effectively the issues that matter most—affordable housing and homelessness, climate action, safer and sustainable communities, good jobs with good pay and safe working conditions, civil rights and social justice for all, and more. I’m proud of the movement we have built and I look forward to beginning the hard work to achieve a government that works for every Californian, especially our most vulnerable.  I am excited to begin my work in the Assembly to deliver for families across the 51st District.”

Early on in his candidacy Zbur received the backing of various organizations and political groups including labour, civic, environmental as well as this newspaper. Zbur was endorsed by Equality California early in April 2021, alongside the California Legislative LGBTQ+ Caucus.

When Zbur is sworn in on December 5 and takes office, he will join the largest Legislative LGBTQ+ Caucus in California history.

Equality California released the following statement from its Executive Director Tony Hoang celebrating the victory:

“My friend Rick Chavez Zbur has spent his career fighting for justice and is exactly the type of champion LGBTQ+ Californians need in the Assembly. From a small farming community in the Rio Grande Valley to the halls of the California Capitol, Rick’s life has been defined by service to his community and his country. I know that his bold, experienced leadership will continue to move our state forward, and he will deliver progressive results for the people of the 51st Assembly District.

“Equality California looks forward to being a partner to Rick in his new role, as we continue our shared fight for a world that is healthy, just and fully equal for all LGBTQ+ people.” 

California’s 51st Assembly District includes West Los Angeles, Hollywood and West Hollywood.

MEMBER OF THE STATE ASSEMBLY, 51st District

Candidate(s)VotesPercent
RICK CHAVEZ ZBUR (D)57,32355.40%
LOUIS ABRAMSON (D)46,14544.60%
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California Politics

Alex Villanueva concedes, Robert Luna is new LA County Sheriff

Luna served as chief of the Long Beach Police Department for seven years, having first been appointed to the position in 2014

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Screenshot/YouTube

LOS ANGELES – Alex Villanueva, the incumbent Los Angeles County Sheriff who has been trailing challenger Robert Luna, the retired police chief from Long Beach, by 20% among a shrinking number of ballots left to be tabulated has conceded the race.

Villanueva leaves office in the wake of a single term marred by upheaval, fighting with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the discord he sowed amidst allegations of corruption.

The Los Angeles Times reported six days ago that Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón has launched a criminal investigation into allegations that Sheriff Alex Villanueva may have broken state law when he solicited campaign donations from deputies.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff serves a four-year term. There are no term limits for the position.

Luna served as chief of the Long Beach Police Department for seven years, having first been appointed to the position in 2014.

He was the last candidate standing in a crowded field of law enforcement professionals who sought to unseat the controversial sheriff.

SHERIFF

Candidate(s)VotesPercent
ROBERT LUNA (N)987,73059.84%
ALEX VILLANUEVA (N)662,89340.16%
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California Politics

Two anti-LGBTQ House Republicans reelected in close Calif races

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that two highly contested U.S. House races ended Monday after both Republican incumbents won reelection

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Republicans Rep. Michelle Steel and Rep. Ken Calvert (Photo Credit: U.S. House)

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Times is reporting that in two highly contested California U.S. House races, both ended Monday evening after the Republican incumbents won reelection.

Republican Rep. Michelle Steel defeated Democratic Navy Reserve officer Jay Chen after a heated race for California’s 45th Congressional District, an area straddling Orange and Los Angeles counties that was created to empower Asian American voters, according to the Times.

Steel faced protests over her campaign ads aiming to portray her rival as a communist sympathizer. She was elected to the Orange County Board of Supervisors in 2014 and to Congress in 2020 after a fierce battle with then incumbent Democratic Congressman Harley Rouda. Steel is one of the first three Korean American women elected to the House.

Michelle Steel is so opposed to letting Americans marry who they love, she pulled her own daughter out of school for expressing support for LGBTQ rightsIn a speech given to supporters, Steel said to laughter from the audience, “and then [Steel’s daughter] said, ‘God gave us two men — what’s wrong with gay marriage?’ We brought her back and we sent her [to] Marymount.

Rep. Ken Calvert, the longest-serving Republican member of California’s congressional delegation, won reelection in Riverside County despite being drawn into a less favorable district during the decennial reconfiguring of congressional maps.

Calvert beat Democrat Will Rollins, a former federal prosecutor, in a district that became much more competitive this year, in part because of the inclusion of one of the nation’s largest concentrations of LGBTQ voters, the Times reported.  Calvert, in the past has opposed gay rights and once attacked an opponent for being gay, has recently said that he has reconsidered his position on LGBTQ issues.

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California Politics

Rep. Karen Bass widens lead over Caruso in LA mayoral race

While Caruso held a slight advantage after last Tuesday’s election night, Bass has outgained him with every release of voting data since

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Rep. Karen Bass speaking at a campaign event in San Pedro September 15 (Photo Credit: Bass for Mayor campaign)

LOS ANGELES – According to the new figures from the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office released Monday, Rep. Karen Bass has jumped out to a lead of more than 29,000 votes, or 52.15% to Real Estate tycoon Rick Caruso’s 47.8%.

Bass had 354,948 votes to Caruso’s 325,677.

Candidate Rick Caruso speaking with former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan this past June
(Photo credit: Caruso for LA mayor campaign/Facebook)

The hotly contested race is still too close to call. While Caruso held a slight advantage after last Tuesday’s election night, Bass has outgained him with every release of voting data since, and now holds a 29,271-vote lead. There are still hundreds of of thousands of ballots to be counted, as the latest update represents roughly 76% of the estimated vote. An undetermined number of mail-in ballots remain to be counted.

LOS ANGELES CITY GENERAL MUNICIPAL ELECTION Mayor

Candidate(s)VotesPercent
KAREN RUTH BASS (N)354,94852.15%
RICK J. CARUSO (N)325,67747.85%
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