2019 California State Senate Race

On March 26, voters in the 33rd state Senate District will go to polls in a special election to fill the unexpired term of Ricardo Lara, who was elected the state’s insurance commissioner last November.

The Senate district stretches from Southeast Los Angeles, through cities down the 710 Freeway corridor and into much of Long Beach.

Long Beach Post Publisher David Sommers invited all 11 candidates to be interviewed regarding their positions on a range of policy and social issues important to the district. (Long Beach Councilman Al Austin previously withdrew from the race, but his name remains on the ballot.) Of the 11 candidates, nine accepted the invitation to meet with the Post for an in-person, on-the-record interview.

The candidates are listed in the order of the Secretary of State’s random draw.

Select any two candidates below to compare their answers. You will find a section of each candidate’s interview highlighted that editors felt best summarized each answer. Click on the highlighted portion to read their full answer.

Lena Gonzalez
Ana Maria Quintana
Cesar Flores
Martha Flores Gibson
Leticia Vasquez Wilson
Tom Cares
Ali Saleh
Jose Solache
Denise Diaz

Lena Gonzalez

→ Read the entire interview with Lena Gonzalez here.

As a Long Beach-based publication, we’d like to ask why you are the best prepared candidate to represent Long Beach’s interests in the State Senate?

I have a great experience being here in the city of Long Beach for 10 years, five years working very directly with the Long Beach community as a district director for Robert Garcia (vice mayor at the time) and the last five years, I’ve been elected (as a councilwoman). And in those five years of being elected, I’ve led on major policies for the city. I’ve actually chaired the state and federal legislative committees. I’ve championed major policies on the state level with Sen. Ricardo Lara at the time on behalf of Long Beach, and worked very closely with my council colleagues in order to push the agendas and the values of residents forward. You know, we’re the largest—one of the largest—cities in the state of California; everyone is watching us. So, I think that our policies—whether it’s hotel workers, whether it’s the Styrofoam ban, whether it’s addressing the issue of misclassification at our port—it’s been taken up by the state legislature. So, I think that experience and knowledge has really given me an opportunity to run for state Senate.

If elected, what would be the focus of the first piece of legislation you would propose?

Couple things. I think about of course climate change is so very important, not just to residents here in Long Beach but along the Southeast and South L.A. regions of the Senate district. [There is] toxicity underground and issues with air quality and the water quality; being an environmental advocate on the L.A. River Master Plan. Even though my opponents don’t know it, I’ve been advocating for them as well as Long Beach on that committee. And so, that one is going to be a big one. Gov. Brown has set forward SB 100 [a bill signed in September] which set carbon fuel emissions to get to zero by 2045. I’d like to see how we can speed that up. We’re going to be looking at a Green New Deal here in Long Beach that we can support, [and see] how can we take that to the state Senate and really push the envelope when it comes to green technology, green innovation and building a new green economy.

Is there a particular endorsement or supporter which is especially relevant or meaningful to you? Why should voters give that specific one particular attention when considering your candidacy?

Absolutely. Planned Parenthood has just endorsed me. I feel like that is not just something that speaks to women voters, it speaks to all voters. We know that in the Senate district about 80 percent of the people that go to the clinic are women, but we’re also seeing an influx in the district—and I’ve got stats from Planned Parenthood—from the LGBTQ community, utilizing Planned Parenthood clinics. Title X which was now just challenged by the [Trump] Administration, is a hot ticket item. We know that this Senate district has a lot of Medi-Cal recipients. And so, access to health care is going to be extremely crucial in this election as well. Having that endorsement is key in realizing that I’m going to be the person championing a lot of these issues, not just for women but for everybody.

Similarly, how would those endorsements or supporters impact your decisions or voting record if you were elected?

They have impact because they’re fighting every single day for health care access, for more Medi-Cal reimbursements, for additional clinics in the areas of need, which is my district currently in the 1st District, but will be as a state Senator in the 33rd district. So, they will absolutely impact me. I will have to bend their ear as to how we could get more state funding for Medi-Cal reimbursements, how we can get doctors that look like the community in these areas, and how we can expand access, whether that’s through mobile clinics, additional brick and mortar clinics. That’s gonna be very important and then talking about the ACA and universal health care overall is, is going to be key.

How would you remain focused on the diverse and differing needs of the many cities you would represent and not forget about the needs of local government once you are in Sacramento?

I’ve had a lot of experience in the 1st District. It’s dynamic. There are competing interests every day, growth, keeping our diversity here in the city, the port and, you know, its amazing growth as well, but also the environmental impacts with lot of competing interests. They are very similar to the Senate district. So, I will absolutely represent everyone because I’ve been doing that in the 1st District. The Southeast region has a lot of need as well. … I think what’s exciting about myself going to the Senate district and a lot of legislators that have been elected before me is that we do come from local government. So, knowing that you have somebody that has a local component and experience is very important. The local control aspect which a lot of people, not just in Long Beach, we want to have but also in speaking with a lot of the electeds in Southeast L.A.—they want to ensure their voice is heard. In the first 100 days, I hope to go to every single City Council meeting and talk to local elected officials and school board members about how we can change and improve our Senate district but look at it cohesively. This isn’t Long Beach against Southeast L.A., this is all of us together.

How would you address climate change?

Well, on the local side, I’m the most progressive on the environment on the City Council currently. I’ve been the one, one of the only no votes on the additional oil drilling in the Los Cerritos Wetlands. I’ve been a no vote when it comes to coal being transported from the port through our communities because I truly believe in that and I banned Styrofoam. It took me two years to do that. We banned Styrofoam. Everyone thinks it’s so innovative. It’s great but we needed to do that. We also created a green business program with that. We’re looking at a dimension at a Green New Deal, to look at more green and innovative economies in the state of California. So I think I will continue those efforts. I think the state legislature has looked at Long Beach as a leader and I hope to carry that on and work on making more ambitious plans and goals. The 2045 goal [to reduce emissions], [I will look at] how can we get that to 2035 and really build upon the work that I’ve been doing here on the local level. I know Gov. Newsom has a lot of good plans as well for the environment that we will work collaboratively on.

Some state leaders and legislators support action for the state to control local housing development.  This is a responsibility traditionally managed by local cities and their citizens. Should the state control local housing development?  What do you think of the governor suing a city on their housing policy as has occurred with Huntington Beach?

I am going to be bullish on affordable housing. I have been a local proponent of building more affordable housing because I am the council member that has [been] the ‘yes in my backyard’ council member. I keep giving people the statistic but I’ll do it again: 1,800 units of affordable housing currently exist in my district, Downtown and Central Long Beach. That’s more than five districts combined in this city. I shouldn’t have to be the only member of the council sharing that load of this responsibility. I think every part of the city, if you have lower resources, you should still be able to live along the coast just as you’re able to live in Downtown or Central. I think the same speaks for the rest of the state. Huntington Beach has built absolutely no affordable housing, yet they’re getting incentives and state tax credits because of their housing plan. So, I believe that the state does need to step in. If we want to address displacement, if we want to make sure that rents don’t continue to increase, if we want to ensure that people have a good place to live, including [people of] average, medium and low income levels. That means, very low income as well, people need to, to think about that. Right now, we are only incentivizing seniors and veterans. What about families, women with children that we know that are, are sort of on an uptick in  experiencing homelessness in L.A. County specifically. So, we need to address that and work with local governments. But if they don’t work with us, then we absolutely need to step in as a state and we’ll make sure we’re producing more.

What do you think should be the state’s role in preventing and solving the homelessness crisis?

We have a state of emergency when it comes to homelessness and L.A. County is feeling that the most, for various reasons. I think in Long Beach we did a really good job at obtaining $12 million state grant to fund an annual homeless shelter, which was fantastic. And, you know, we got a lot of heat even for that, but I think it was the right direction. It’s only about less than 200 beds so it’s not even like the whole solution here, but I think more funding and when I look at that, it’s like the whole, the whole issue. It’s not just affordable housing, it’s not just shelters, it’s mental health services which we know have been historically under resourced. It’s more funding for education as well because we know in higher ed, one out of every six Long Beach City College students is homeless that we know of. Food insecurity is an issue, so we need to expand, based on all of these different pillars, and we haven’t looked at it very comprehensively as a state. We’ve just looked at it and try to piecemeal. Let’s give funding here and funding here and funding here but we haven’t looked at it as a complete package like a continuum of care that we have here. I’d like to do that same sort of continuum of care at the state level making sure that all aspects of homelessness get addressed. So that means more funding, working closer with our federal government as well and some of our congress members, work in certain committees like health committees, that could be very fruitful for us and I know Congresswoman Nanette Barragan is on the health committee. Perhaps she can look for additional resources on the mental health side with us.

Police use of force issue is a hot-button issue in this state and nationwide. There are competing use of force bills in the legislature right now. What is your position on use of force reform and do you support the pending legislative reforms?

Police use of force reform absolutely needs to happen. I think we’re in a situation where there’s a lot of distrust in government specifically with police departments and I know police departments are also overworked and under-resourced so we have to absolutely figure this out. I know that there’s competing bills, it seems that one bill, which just calls for training, it seems that departments are already doing that already. You know, in my work at Microsoft—I think the issue is data. I’m actually working right now with USC on a data platform that will actually look at arrest, police use of force data, truancies for three different organizations or agencies, I should say, LAUSD, city of L.A., and L.A. County Sheriff. We want to provide this data to policy makers to make more informed decisions about this issue. It seems in the legislature, it’s extremely split. We need to get the data, we need to sit down together as we’ve done before with other issues like the California Values Act, got everyone at a table and formed a committee of sorts and really figure out what the root of the issue is and how it’s going to affect people every single day. So, few different steps but I think if we can work together, a little bit more collaboratively… some of these have been dying on the Senate floor.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District is pursuing a one-half cent sales tax measure that would raise about $1.4 billion each year to pay for clean-air projects such as zero-emission cars, trucks, trains and cargo equipment.  What is your position on this given that a major freeway corridor, the 710, runs through the district?

I haven’t studied the issue, but I will. I would absolutely support I think anything that supports the green economy— anything that supports the lessening of emissions due to transportation, which we know is the major violator in the environment, especially in our neighborhoods. And given the fact that I currently represent an area that has some of the highest asthma rates, absolutely, we need to do this. This is what we need to do. When we’re looking at bond measures down the road or sales tax increases, I would hope that going forward, they really start investing back into this new green economy.

Similarly, what is your position on proposed plans to widen a 19-mile stretch of the 710 freeway through much of the district?

I was on the 710 project committee for a few months, and I know that this has been two decades-plus in the making and so there have been a lot of discussions back and forth from the environmental justice groups to elected officials along the 710. Widening it is certainly something that logistically would seem good, but I wanted to err on the side of the environmental justice advocates to ensure that we had a dedicated truck lane and that there was bike infrastructure along there. That community oftentimes has had obviously trucks, trains, port emissions, dirty water in the L.A. River—so it’s  just been compounding the issue. In addition to expanding, I would just hope that we can continue looking at ways that we can lessen the truck load off the 710. I’m actually working in that area to expand Drake and Chavez to one park, that would add green space to provide a community center that would talk about the environmental sustainability along the westside of the city that would sort of marry with the L.A. River. We’re also providing $50 million in the Municipal Urban Stormwater Treatment plan, LB MUST. So, there’s other elements that need to take place if we continue adding more trucks, hopefully to mitigate some of those issues.

Is there anything else about your candidacy you’d like voters to know?

I will continue to be a champion for the environment. I have been the most progressive voice on the City Council when it comes to the environment. I will continue pushing for more education opportunities especially for those in underserved neighborhoods like the district I would be representing. And then lastly, I would just say, I will work with everybody. I want to make sure my door is completely open and hear the needs of all residents in Southeast L.A., South L.A., and in Long Beach.

Ana Maria Quintana

→ Read the entire interview with Ana Maria Quintana here.

As a Long Beach-based publication, we’d like to ask why you are the best prepared candidate to represent Long Beach’s interests in the State Senate?

I am a product of the entire district. I was raised in Cudahy, attended the local schools, graduated from Bell High School, was homecoming queen and student body president. I got a scholarship to Yale University and Columbia Law School. I’m currently a practicing attorney in Long Beach, and I’m giving you this promise to show that I am equally invested in Long Beach. My firm is here. I’ve been here for five years now. I recognize that Long Beach is the economic engine of the 33rd, but I want to use that in as leverage so that we can get resources all throughout the district. So what makes me the most qualified candidate? I understand Long Beach’s needs and I understand how we can work together in the district to support everybody.

If elected, what would be the focus of the first piece of legislation you would propose?

In the context of that, I came into office with the city of Bell in the midst of scandal. One of the things that I was able to do and my colleagues were not, is that I have the financial and the legal skills to understand how cities function. So what I would intend to do is quite simply is to learn the budget. When I took office in Bell six months in [in 2010], we found out that my city was in debt by $155 million with a general fund of $13 [million]. So that’s beyond bankruptcy. I literally have pulled more overnights working on Bell than I did in all my academic career because these are people’s lives. Now eight years later, we are at $75 million debt and still at $13 million in the general fund because we haven’t been successful at increasing our sales tax revenue. And property tax for the most part is going to stay the same. Where we did succeed is to prevent an increase [in debt]. So what am I going to do? I’m going to learn to budget. I think California is an incredibly wealthy state. We are the fifth largest economy in the world. I intend to learn it and advocate with the priorities. So in terms of legislation, it’s hard to say, because I want to learn the budget first in order to allocate resources correctly.

Is there a particular endorsement or supporter which is especially relevant or meaningful to you? Why should voters give that specific one particular attention when considering your candidacy?

I am incredibly honored to have received the endorsement of one of my friends and mentors, which is retired Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno. I have known him since I was 19 years old. He graduated from Yale, and I met him obviously years later when I was a sophomore in college when he went to a reunion. He didn’t formally become my mentor until after law school. And the reason why I [value his endorsement] is because of the work that he’s done in the judiciary. He’s incredibly bright. He thinks of me as such… he did a video on me that explains why he’s endorsing me. So for me he just means the world. Someone who I’ve always admired and someone who for a moment I thought maybe I would go that route [become a judge]. And maybe that’s still in the works, but right now I’m running for State Senate and I’m really excited. So he’s someone that I go to actually for advice.

Similarly, how would those endorsements or supporters impact your decisions or voting record if you were elected?

Well I’m not a career politician. I am an attorney who has a unique set of skills that will be used for the betterment of the community. So The endorsements that I’ve gotten are minimal. The one that I mentioned and the support that I received has come from my colleagues and people who I’ve worked with. How would they impact me? They won’t. I’m not a career politician, and my goal is to just serve and use my skill set. I don’t feel indebted to anyone. My only obligation really is to my residents and that means a lot to me. I ran for office because I felt the duty to do so. I am incredibly blessed. I got excellent opportunities that I don’t see my residents receiving anymore and that’s not right. It’s not fair. I would describe what happened in Bell as a very well-orchestrated white collar crime scheme targeted at the hard working community. And I’ve seen similar examples in neighboring cities, and I want to make sure that that doesn’t happen. So at this point it’s my community. They trust me, I feel very honored; I’m a product of the area and I think it’s my contribution.

How would you remain focused on the diverse and differing needs of the many cities you would represent and not forget about the needs of local government once you are in Sacramento?

That’s an easy one. Again, considering the context, I can’t. I entered the world of politics working in a city that had nothing. I don’t think it’s something that you forget easily. It’s actually my induction into the world of politics and the world of government and finance. That’s basically my foundation. I don’t know how to do politics any other way other than through governance.

How would you address climate change?

Primarily, by working together. This problem is so incredibly gigantic and I feel like we’re regressing in finding solutions. So first and foremost I would gather the appropriate stakeholders and get guidance. My strength again as an attorney is advocacy and being able to bring in resources. What I would do is get the experts, get some guidance and advocate on residents’ behalf. One of the things that I focused a lot on is the 710 Freeway. And the reason why I do it is because [residents’] cancer rates, asthma rates, etc. etc., and also people don’t realize that the two exits on the 710, the two last ones on Atlantic and the one on Florence Boulevard, are the worst ones. Both of them exit in my city. They all exit in Bell. You can see the level of concentration of air quality, traffic and congestion there. It’s inevitable that that’s one of the things at my community is going to have to address. I would gather stakeholders and come up with a viable solution.

Some state leaders and legislators support action for the state to control local housing development.  This is a responsibility traditionally managed by local cities and their citizens. Should the state control local housing development?  What do you think of the governor suing a city on their housing policy as has occurred with Huntington Beach?

I think that issue should remain at local level, quite honestly. Every city has their own specific needs and we should be able to address them on our own. Because they directly impact us—and being on the ground and living in the community—I think we know best how to address them. I also have a real estate development background so in terms of creating cities, you can’t have one formula for all cities in the state.

So Huntington Beach, I’ll give you a better example. A couple of weeks ago or just like a week or two, [the governor] came up with a list of cities that are not compliant with the housing requirement. I understand why he did that. The city of Bell was included and we clearly don’t belong there because if you look at our city, my entire city is filled out. My city is 2 square miles with 40,000 people. There is no space whatsoever where we can build and we can’t build up because a lot of restrictions exists. And we can’t accommodate more people because quite honestly we’re lacking the infrastructure to accommodate a larger population. Our infrastructure is poor like I’ve just mentioned.

The last two exits on the 710 are the worst ones. We don’t have public transportation. I started working on the 710 project and I started working on that because I was really naïve—I promised that I was going to fix the exit on Florence because my thought was South Gate was able to fix their Firestone exit, we should quick fix our Florence exit. I didn’t realize that there was this vital way of politics and financing that needed to take place before that happened. And also, they had to really recognize that there was a need here. The only thing that was stopping it was the advocacy to get it done.

But in the process of finding solutions I realized that the Florence bus line is just as congested and as in high demand as the bus line on Wilshire Boulevard. And Wilshire Boulevard actually has public transformation. Metro is there. … So to ask us to accommodate a larger density, I think it’s unfair. I have great projects right now in the city of Bell that I would love to do mixed use and accommodate housing. But I recognize and developers don’t want to and even the city doesn’t have the resources to accommodate larger density.

What do you think should be the state’s role in preventing and solving the homelessness crisis?

We have a moral duty, quite honestly. Again, like I mentioned, California is the fifth largest economy in the world. To have the level of homelessness that we have, I think it’s really, quite honestly, just embarrassing and I think we’re failing as a society to care for that need. The city of Bell, again our resources are limited, but last year we opened permanent supportive housing for the homeless and veterans. We were able to do it with minimal resources, I don’t understand how the state can’t do the same. By the way, this project wasn’t a loan. We partnered with the Salvation Army. So when in terms of when I talk about getting involved, getting stakeholders involved, that we can’t do it alone and my city is poor. And no one can really do it alone. You have to get other people involved, get the experts involved.

Police use of force issue is a hot-button issue in this state and nationwide. There are competing use of force bills in the legislature right now. What is your position on use of force reform and do you support the pending legislative reforms?

When I was at the ACLU, I did an internship with them when I was in law school and had the opportunity to do some intake work at the L.A. County Jail facilities, and realized that that facility for example was beyond capacity. It was doubled. Literally doubled. You walk in there and the level of human rights abuses that existed were evident. So the reason why I’m bringing that up is that I saw firsthand the situation in which the prisoners, and also the officers, find themselves in. So I recognize the need, and basically how we as a society contribute to creating an environment in which there is natural hostility.

So do I support that legislation? I definitely think there needs to be better training. There has to be better sensitivities. I think the use of excess force should not be tolerated. That being said, we also need to recognize that we’re creating an environment in which officers feel defensive. So I recognize the abuses and the dangers that exists there. I mean I look at my own police department. We’re small, we’re incredibly small and underserved. So because we don’t have the budget, we haven’t been able to hire more police officers.

So what we end up having to do is to a lot of overtime pay. Give a lot of overtime pay to officers and that’s not the best thing to do because we’ll end up having a tired workforce that’s forced to go out into the public and basically defend and risk their lives to defend others. So that’s the situation. I’m trying not to be wishy-washy but I think we need to look at the problem much more holistically and recognize why it is that we, the United States, have one of the highest levels of incarceration in the world.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District is pursuing a one-half cent sales tax measure that would raise about $1.4 billion each year to pay for clean-air projects such as zero-emission cars, trucks, trains and cargo equipment.  What is your position on this given that a major freeway corridor, the 710, runs through the district?

I would have to analyze the impact and again how each city bears it. Again going back to the city of Bell, we were one of the highest tax cities in California precisely because of the scandal and the abuse that we suffered. So I’m able with SB1 for example—a lot of my residents were asking me, are you going to support this? Should we vote for this or not? And my response to them was yes. Why? Because we have the 710 in our backyard and those might at least go for that. So we have to make an analysis together as to whether or not you want to support it. Because at the same time my residents don’t want to get taxed anymore. We’re taxed enough. But we recognize that we need resources in order to be able to accommodate our needs like SB1 with the 710. Air quality is another one.

Similarly, what is your position on proposed plans to widen a 19-mile stretch of the 710 freeway through much of the district?

We’re talking about that on our way here as we were driving up the 710. No, we should not widen it. The moment you widen it, all you do is create an opportunity to increase traffic. I think what we need to do and we need to emphasize is we need to repair it. First and foremost at its most basic level it needs to be repaired. We all know that there’s going to be an increase in traffic use, at least at the Port of Long Beach that’s going to increase the amount of traffic that goes up the 710. And by the way they get off on Florence or they get off on Atlantic, which again, are both on the city of Bell. Drive up a mile and get off in Commerce and then transport all these goods to the rest of the nation.

The Port of Long Beach and the Port of L.A. and maybe one here, together bring in 44 percent of the nation’s goods and they go up this corridor. If we don’t do something to address and fix the 710, I have no idea how we’re going to accommodate the increase of imports. But what I do know, is that if we don’t address it, the impact is going to be up above where my community lives. So I formally opposed the expansion of the 710.

Is there anything else about your candidacy you’d like voters to know?

In the last eight years, I have learned so much about local government and management. Because again I started off my career as an elected official in a city that had tremendous need. And what I realized there is that I am incredibly thankful for the education and the training that I received. Because had I not had that, I don’t know if I would have been able to come up with solutions in the city. So all this is to say that training is needed, a foundation is needed. Problems are complex, which is actually one of the reasons why I’m fascinated with running for the 33rd because the kid in me likes that stuff. I graduated with a BA in American studies government. I have a master’s in economics and I went to Columbia Law School.

So in the practice of government as an elected official, I get to do all those things. I get to pursue my own interests. And the beauty of it is that I get to do it in my community. So what would I want voters to know: I want voters to know that I have the skill set, the passion and the interest in the subject matter to advocate for our own benefit and that’s essential. I saw that in the first three years in Bell where we spent a lot of time in Sacramento. We were being treated basically as part of the problem and Sacramento failed to recognize that our city was actually the victim. It was actually the victim. So it was my advocacy that really helped them switch and change their perspective of who we were.

First of all we didn’t do it. And second, it was done to us. So to put the onus and the punishment on the city was wrong. And I think the only reason I was able to do it and catch that is because I studied and worked and immersed myself in the problems. I have done more working on Bell matters than I have in my entire academic career. And why? Because these are people’s lives. And I think people fail to recognize that government affects people’s lives. It’s not just distant policy platform that exists between one entity and the residents. What government does, it affects people’s livelihood. And I recognize that, and I work with that in mind.

Cesar Flores

→ Read the entire interview with Cesar Flores here.

As a Long Beach-based publication, we’d like to ask why you are the best prepared candidate to represent Long Beach’s interests in the State Senate?

I’m talking about the issues that other candidates are not. I’m talking about education, healthcare, living wage and rent control. I’m the best candidate because I’ve listened to the people and I’ve canvassed. People are tired of the Democratic and the Republican establishment. They say, oh, another politician. It’s the same thing. I listen to what people said, so I decided to run in the Green Party because that’s outside of the two-party system. And we know that Democrats, they’re very organized. So [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez, she won in New York and that’s great. So what’s happening is now there’s talks among the Democratic establishment that they want to remove Ocasio-Cortez, and then the way that they want to do it is they want to run somebody against her or they want to redistrict her out of Congress.

That to me is a threat to our democracy and I’ll tell you why: Because locally, we have [Democrat] Maria Estrada run [in 2018] and she lost against [Assemblyman Anthony] Rendon. She got 44,000 votes. Rendon got 54,000 votes. So that’s relevant to me because she was going to apply for an [executive board] with the Democratic Party of Los Angeles County. And when elections came up, they didn’t put her name on the agenda. So Maria is doing her best to get her name or to maybe resolve the issue. But my concern is that this is what a candidate has to do within their own party. You have to fight them to get on the agenda. So I believe that’s really unfair.

So instead of Maria being on the executive board, she wasn’t on the executive board. So I represent the interest of the working class, the middle class of Long Beach and that’s why I’m the best candidate. I talk about the real issues; I don’t beat around the bush. I’m for the environment. That’s what Long Beach needs.

If elected, what would be the focus of the first piece of legislation you would propose?

I would introduce as SB 562 [The Healthy California Act]. I would reintroduce it and make it better, and more accessible and affordable to the people. Eventually, we want to regulate the pharmaceutical industries and the insurance companies.

Is there a particular endorsement or supporter which is especially relevant or meaningful to you? Why should voters give that specific one particular attention when considering your candidacy?

I did receive an endorsement from Sonia De Leon. She’s actually in the Paramount School Board. We supported her campaign, I canvassed for her. She ran on Clean Environment and Healthy Students. And so that’s saying a lot about her policies and my policies because I supported her. So you can’t have healthy students without a healthy environment. You can’t have healthy people if there’s contamination. And there’s contamination throughout the 33rd state Senate District.

Similarly, how would those endorsements or supporters impact your decisions or voting record if you were elected?

I don’t think that it would impact my voting record. I would just vote on what’s right for the community. Those endorsements are supported, and even if I did get those endorsements, I know that I still canvassed on the issues of healthcare, healthy students in a healthy environment. And so they can’t have one without the other. So that’s why if they would have not endorsed, that’s still what I’m supporting. I’m supporting the people first.

How would you remain focused on the diverse and differing needs of the many cities you would represent and not forget about the needs of local government once you are in Sacramento?

I will collaborate with local officials and push for progressive policies. That’s what I would do. And of course it would be an honor to be a representative of the people because the people want people that are not establishment, not corrupt, not Republican or Democrat. They’re tired of them. They’re tired of false promises.

How would you address climate change?

Right now I’m reviewing the Green New Deal from 2016 from the Green Party. And so we’re going to make a revisement or proposal to it to make it tighter, stronger and for the environment, for the people. What’s going on is that there’s industries that just need to be shut down like the oil industry. It needs to be shut down because it’s contaminating. We have the electric car. In 1990 it was killed by a big oil and other interests, and we need to bring renewable sources of energy by 2025, and this needs to happen radically and immediately. Because the scientific community already gave us 10 years.

So if we don’t do it by 2025, we’re not going to survive and we need to measure what we do within the next five years between 2026 and 2031. That’s essentially what we need to do. And so that’s why I’m supporting a green new deal by 2020, 2025 and it’ll be kind of what FDR did. We gave jobs. So it was the community that’s involved in working in cleaning up the environment and supporting their communities and the planet.

Some state leaders and legislators support action for the state to control local housing development.  This is a responsibility traditionally managed by local cities and their citizens. Should the state control local housing development?  What do you think of the governor suing a city on their housing policy as has occurred with Huntington Beach?

I think the state should control it. I want to say that let’s have these cities control it, too. Maybe they can control like a majority of it, like 80 percent, and have the state only enforce 20 percent. Personally, I don’t think some city officials could be trusted. So I wouldn’t want to give them that responsibility to control. No I wouldn’t do that. As far as the issue here in Huntington Beach: I’m not too familiar, but if the governor sued because it was overpriced, I think that I would support that too. But I still would need a little bit more information regarding that.

What do you think should be the state’s role in preventing and solving the homelessness crisis?

The state should invest in affordable housing. I think that statewide, I think for every eight homes that are built, I would build two more for affordable housing. I think that needs to change immediately because people are paying $1,700, $1,800 for a one bedroom. Sometimes these apartments are not even properly cleaned and the living conditions are not fair for them. These people, when they move in, if your stove doesn’t work you can’t really do much, like sue to fix your stove—it would just be dumb to go court for that because it’s a lot of money, it’s a lot of stress. So tighter restrictions on the quality of the overall housing should be implemented and we should definitely support our homeless people because the State of California has money. They have reserves that Gov. Brown gave. And so we should just put it back into the areas that we need it. Housing, education and healthcare and of course cleaning up the environment.

Police use of force issue is a hot-button issue in this state and nationwide. There are competing use of force bills in the legislature right now. What is your position on use of force reform and do you support the pending legislative reforms?

I haven’t looked at all the bills so I wouldn’t be able to give you an exact answer in the overall context of holding police officers accountable. But I do believe that they should be held accountable, and they should be disciplined—if there’s evidence, truthful evidence, that indicate that this person is beaten unfairly or mistreated unfairly, there should be levels of punishment for each action that an officer takes against the civilian. And if they have maybe like so many actions within their career, maybe after a certain amount of time, they can get terminated and they’re not getting benefits for retirement health or pay. And if they go on a leave of absence, that would be unpaid leave of absence.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District is pursuing a one-half cent sales tax measure that would raise about $1.4 billion each year to pay for clean-air projects such as zero-emission cars, trucks, trains and cargo equipment.  What is your position on this given that a major freeway corridor, the 710, runs through the district?

I’m in favor of supporting the environment. I’m not too familiar with this proposition that AQMD has done. What they can work on is tightening their restrictions for companies or industries that are contaminating. And if these industries don’t comply, they need to pay heavy fines because right now I think that industries that are polluting, they get fined but it’s like $10,000 to them. So $10,000 to Carlton Forge in Paramount is nothing. They could pay that off easily and still continue to contaminate.

So I would create legislation with the support of the community to make sure that these fines increase dramatically. And why should we have to pay for their contamination? We should be doing this already. Here I think the industries in Long Beach, they pay for the air filters. Why is it that they’re going to tax us even more to pay for something that they created? They have millions of dollars. Carlton Forge is owned by Warren Buffet. We’re not going to come up with some new legislation that creates more trouble by appropriating funds and a misuse. I don’t trust AQMD. I’ve gone to their meetings, several of their meetings in Paramount, and they just beat around the bush. So why should we even give them money when they can’t even do their job as an enforcement agency?

Similarly, what is your position on proposed plans to widen a 19-mile stretch of the 710 freeway through much of the district?

I think that my initial concern is before we start widening anything, we need to address and support the people who have cancer in that range. Because there’s trailer carts and these people have cancer. There’s a lot of cancer there. So before we even move on expanding the 710, we need to address the contamination and the families and their health.

Is there anything else about your candidacy you’d like voters to know?

I think that they should know that I’m in favor of them. My team and I are working daily with the community. We’ve reached out to them, we talked to them about the issues that are facing the cities and the issues that California is facing. And the voters need to make an informed decision and they need to go to my [Facebook] page ‘Cesar Flores for State Senate,’ and review and compare my platforms with the other candidates’ platform, and the issues that I’m talking about, instead of the other candidates. And really make a truthful and a critical decision to support me because it would be an honor to get their support. Because this is not a joke.

This is something serious and while other candidates do their thing, we’re talking to people. I don’t have a problem with walking, canvassing, engaging people about the issues. So they need to be aware that they’re not going to be represented by a corporate puppet or somebody that’s out of touch with their needs.

Martha Flores Gibson

→ Read the entire interview with Martha Flores Gibson here.

As a Long Beach-based publication, we’d like to ask why you are the best prepared candidate to represent Long Beach’s interests in the State Senate?

I’ve been a resident in Long Beach ever since I was a child and started off in the neighborhood youth program and so I was schooled here. I schooled all my three children here. And as an employee for the Long Beach Unified School District, my task was to model for the children and youth, education and the pursuit of success with the opportunities that came at them. That’s me in a nutshell. And I’ve been since I was an employee for the district, I’ve had other jobs as well in the Long Beach district and I have been on every coalition possible in this district. And what has happened to Long Beach is that it’s always been ‘We,’ not ‘I.’ And if we’re going to make a stance at moving forward for Long Beach in bringing in whatever it takes to see that middle class families, along with the disadvantaged population to work for Long Beach and to bring resources and tools, there has to be an empowerment in the communities. And I know firsthand, being involved in the seamless education, the homeless education, and not only the homeless and the inner-city, not only that is being a part of the middle-class family agendas and what they wish as well, because again, it’s not ‘I,’ it’s ‘We.’

If elected, what would be the focus of the first piece of legislation you would propose?

Well, I believe that again, transparency is key. You ask any neighborhood or community or persons or families, they really feel that that hasn’t happened in California and in District 33. I would push for transparency so that whatever is done after that can be very well known in the neighborhoods that I will represent. And can I add to that also, it’s a start for me because the communities in the 33rd District need to know that what I do, I’m going to include them in empowering their neighborhoods and to do that, honesty has to be forefront.

Is there a particular endorsement or supporter which is especially relevant or meaningful to you? Why should voters give that specific one particular attention when considering your candidacy?

I would have to say that endorsements really don’t vote people in. It’s the quality of the personal and professional experience of the candidate running. And I believe that in this election, it’s going to be just that. Don’t get me wrong, I believe endorsements are relevant. However, I’ve run on letting the people make up their minds on who is the best candidate.

Similarly, how would those endorsements or supporters impact your decisions or voting record if you were elected?

So in follow-up to the question, the first part of the question is that it is so important to take consideration on who you have as supporters and who is funding your campaign. Because if you take monies that don’t serve the people at large, then you’re indebted to that supporter. You’re indebted to that person that endorses you and you become a puppet. And one of the things that I have taken great pride in is, I’m opinionated and I don’t want to be indebted to someone that’s going to tell me what is best for the people of the 33rd District. I will have my own team of many disciplines, multi-discipline individuals—both at the neighborhood level and at the professional level. And I mean by neighborhoods is that you have the mom or the grandmother or the families that choose to either work in their homes or to choose to raise children, not that that their jobs are any less valuable, it’s all valuable. But I want to have the stakeholders in a community, in a neighborhood present, because all voices are relevant whether they be stay-at-home moms or you have someone that had a corporation or as a head of a corporation or is head of their own business, a small business.

How would you remain focused on the diverse and differing needs of the many cities you would represent and not forget about the needs of local government once you are in Sacramento?

My heritage is this: When I was a little girl at 5-years-old my mother and my German stepdad flew me and my grandmother and my uncle, from El Salvador. We flew in to Wichita, Kansas and I went to a red little schoolhouse. I was taught by a teacher very quickly to speak English because she saw me crying that I wanted to communicate to the children, but this is what my stepdad said. He said, ‘You’re an American now. You’ll act and speak like an American.’ And I became an American. With that said I am, again, from Central America. My grandmother and my uncle resided in Huntington Park, Bell Gardens, Cudahay, you name it, they died there and I still have family in Huntington Park. So I was raised in that community because I visited my grandmother and my uncle often, and it’s a Central American community: hard-working people, business owners. With that said, I am a staple in Long Beach like I said, I was raised by a single mom in West Long Beach. And I grew up here of course, I went to school and I raised my children. Now they are half Mexican descent. So when you talk about a mixture of Central Americans and Mexicans and with my brothers being Caucasian and my sister, you can see that in my family were multicultural and there’s diversity. And my studies at Long Beach State was also in multi-diversity cultures. So I studied that in my undergrad as a social worker and my masters as a social worker, that was my field of study. So not only did I study my own culture, I studied the cultures around the world and that’s what gave me the personal and professional experience to be hired by the Long Beach Unified School District as a counselor social worker at Franklin [Middle School] and Stevenson [Elementary School], which carried the most diverse population ever with a Cambodian community, Hispanics, African Americans, so you have a variety in the Long Beach district. Actually we’re the most diverse city, I would say, in the United States—and I’m really thankful that I’m still here in the city serving the population as such.  

How would you address climate change?

You know that is a question in itself and it has many variations. First of all I would want to say that corporations have not done well in serving the Long Beach community at large. But you look at also the working families and the middle class families that depend on those jobs. So again, there’s many stakeholders when you’re asked a question of climate change. However, I have to say that I am grateful for legislation that has passed, that keeps our air clean, that keeps our water clean and that deals with climate change.

Some state leaders and legislators support action for the state to control local housing development.  This is a responsibility traditionally managed by local cities and their citizens. Should the state control local housing development?  What do you think of the governor suing a city on their housing policy as has occurred with Huntington Beach?

That is very simple to me. [State] government has no business interfering with local government. And I think it’s an outrage that the governor is suing certain cities, for right now, Huntington Beach, where they have done so well and they have brought so much revenue to the state of California. I feel like this: if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. So my answer is: they have no business interfering.

What do you think should be the state’s role in preventing and solving the homelessness crisis?

Again, I have served as chair for the New Image Shelter for 12 years. I dealt with the [founders of the shelter] that had an office here in Long Beach and they were the largest shelter in California and I would say this United States. They ran a top-notch shelter and it was, again, multidisciplinary approach with many tools and many services because not only do you need to take care of their living situation, it’s far beyond that. As a social worker, as working with them alongside, it is an issue that you cannot continue to throw money at the situation. It takes neighborhoods, it’s again, not an ‘I’ problem, it’s a ‘we’ problem. And so I would say to Sacramento: ‘Stay out of the local homeless situation and focus on working families, education, clean water, clean air for the people of California.’ So when I was working with the homeless shelter, we did just that, we included the stakeholders and we have various board members from various areas and donors as well. And so when you have someone that is marketing a homeless shelter, you get the corporations involved, then you have the funding and you don’t have to depend on the grants per se, because I know firsthand that when you have a grant, you have to write grants again and again and again and sometimes those grants go away and then you have to start from scratch. I know that because I wrote grants when I was in the Long Beach Unified School District and we utilize those grants, but they didn’t have sustainability. And so what happens when Sacramento decides ‘We’re going to switch agendas,’ so that where does that leave the local governments to deal with the homeless situation? I just don’t believe that it’s a homeless situation, I believe that it’s a government mismanagement.

Police use of force issue is a hot-button issue in this state and nationwide. There are competing use of force bills in the legislature right now. What is your position on use of force reform and do you support the pending legislative reforms?

I believe that any organization needs reform. It’s an ongoing training. I myself was an adjunct professor for the police department to train them and how to deal with the public. So I believe that it’s ongoing. I do believe, I want to have it to go on record that I do support the law enforcement as well as the firefighters that keep us safe and protected. And mainly because I have a deep stake in having that happen because my two boys are firefighters, one’s a lifeguard under the L.A. Fire Department and my son is a captain in the fire department—and he’s going to be a battalion chief soon. So I’m very proud of them and I’m very proud that they work as public servants to keep the community safe. So we need our law enforcement to keep us safe, but with that said, we do need to reform because we all have employees that are not suitable in any organization, in any government organization.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District is pursuing a one-half cent sales tax measure that would raise about $1.4 billion each year to pay for clean-air projects such as zero-emission cars, trucks, trains and cargo equipment.  What is your position on this given that a major freeway corridor, the 710, runs through the district?

Can I say that I am against any tax increase of any sort, and this is why we have really created a government that wants to be involved in all aspects of our lives. And I believe that the Long Beach voters and beyond are sick and tired of being taxed at every level. So I believe that we can work to solve any problem to any solution without taxing the public.

Similarly, what is your position on proposed plans to widen a 19-mile stretch of the 710 freeway through much of the district?

I have not given it serious consideration. I would like to see more plans, more information before I would make a decision. I do know that we need infrastructure. We need to rebuild and repair, whatever it takes, because it’s the working families that utilize those freeways. And if they’re going to travel for 30 miles or more, they really need safe roads.

Is there anything else about your candidacy you’d like voters to know?

I would like to say that I want them to know that I never give up and never give in. Because the governor came to Cabrillo housing and he asked the residents there, ‘What else can I do to help your situation?’ They said this: ‘Help our children in education.’ So with that said, that is my staple. I came here, my mother brought me here for the opportunity. I took the opportunity. I got my doctorate in education so that I can model and I have modeled all my adult life to the children and youth that whatever their paths are, whatever they want to do that they could succeed. And education and experience is key. And with that I want, I ask the teachers, I ask the parents, I ask the business owners, I ask community leaders to come together and vote Martha Flores Gibson for state Senate in the 33rd District.

Leticia Vasquez Wilson

→ Read the entire interview with Leticia Vasquez Wilson here.

As a Long Beach-based publication, we’d like to ask why you are the best prepared candidate to represent Long Beach’s interests in the State Senate?

Well, I have been a resident of the city of Long Beach. I attended Cal State Long Beach as both an undergraduate student, having earned my bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and also my master’s degree in public policy and administration. And so I started my work in public service, actually in Long Beach. I did a lot of volunteer work at Centro Shalom and other agencies during my time as a student. I have been very active in the Long Beach community. I have been a member of the Long Beach Young Democrats, the Long Beach Democratic Club, and started my professional career here in Long Beach working for the Long Beach Women’s Center or woman’s shelter. I helped develop the domestic assault response team where we worked in coalition with the Long Beach Police Department to help women that had been victims of domestic violence. For example, a victim of domestic violence called our hotline. We answered the hotline, we responded to any calls either at a hospital or at a home, offered a woman shelter or another form of housing, and also offered counseling services. I have been very involved with the Long Beach Young Democrats doing other community service. I was involved in Long Beach politics during my time as a student, which is where I met Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga, and have been a part of the Long Beach community for many years.

If elected, what would be the focus of the first piece of legislation you would propose?

I’m very interested in education. I have been a teacher since 1999 and I believe that our education system from the K-14 system lacks funding. During my time as a staff member to Assemblymember Mervyn Dymally, we introduced a number of pieces of legislation to increase funding for public schools, and so I’m interested in revisiting that.

Is there a particular endorsement or supporter which is especially relevant or meaningful to you? Why should voters give that specific one particular attention when considering your candidacy?

Well I have so many endorsements so I’ve got to pick and choose. I have the endorsement of five Democratic clubs, including the Yes We Can Democratic Club here in Long Beach. And, I believe that that endorsement is very important because they are the most progressive Democratic club in the city, and they represent the progressive values that I believe are needed to be represented in Sacramento.

Similarly, how would those endorsements or supporters impact your decisions or voting record if you were elected?

As progressives, we have focused on a number of very important issues throughout the state, including education, healthcare and also housing. And so those endorsements will help guide me as I develop and introduce public policy in those areas [education, healthcare and housing]. We’ve talked about creating more affordable housing in that progressive movement. So again, I’m interested in bringing more affordable housing. We’ve talked about the deterioration of our public schools in the progressive movement, and I’m interested in working on restoring the good public schools in our region, and healthcare, which is another big issue in our progressive movement. And that’s helping to expand access to medical services for everyone. And you know, the other really important one that we also talk about in our progressive movement is eliminating money from politics. Eliminating the influence of big money in politics and that is certainly another issue that I’m interested in working on, in conjunction with our progressives to introduce legislation that will limit the millions of dollars that are being poured into campaigns. I believe that, the people of and the voters of our district are the ones that should be able to decide who their elected officials should be. And in fact, it’s one of the reasons why I’m running. I strongly feel that our elected positions are not royal titles that are—people shouldn’t be crowned for these positions. These positions should not be played like a game of musical chairs among a select few. This process, this democratic process that we’ve all fought for in this country, should be a process that people and voters engage in, and the process includes all of the candidates stepping up and talking to the voters about why they feel they’re the best to represent them and also sharing with them what they have done to earn that position in their communities. And I have a strong record of doing that. You know, I served on the City Council in the city of Lynwood from 2003 to 2007. And when I ran for City Council, I actually ran because the city was suffering from having a reputation of having elected officials that were there serving themselves. And at a very young age, I decided to run for office on a platform that I was going to change that, and we were able to do that. You know, not change it completely, but we made an impact. And some of the things that we were able to achieve there are the following:

During my my campaign for the Lynwood City Council, I became aware of that our city councilmembers in the city of Lynwood were making almost $130,000 a year—in a working class community where the average median income was $30,000 and this was for what is in the books as a part time job. I came in and I said, ‘We’re going to get rid of that.’ We slashed the council salaries by 72 percent, bringing down the council salaries to about $30,000. The council members had a reputation of abusing city credit cards. They were using the city credit cards to pay for services at strip clubs. This is all documented in the L.A. Times and their newspapers. I supported the elimination of credit cards for council members. Another one of the complaints by the residents is the citizens don’t have access to City Hall. We have a primarily Spanish speaking community. I brought a resolution to the table that would require our city to translate our City Council agendas to Spanish and also hire a translator so that our Spanish speaking residents could come to our City Council meetings, put on their headphones and listen to the business that was being conducted on their behalf and also follow along an agenda that was written in a language that they couldn’t understand. I brought that to the City Council.

At that time, a number of our neighboring cities, including Long Beach because I lived at Long Beach, had already started televising their City Council meetings by way of the local cable company. The cities had franchises with cable companies and one of the things that they did was they went out and they recorded the City Council meetings, and they made them available to the residents through their cable channels. I brought that to the table at City Hall in the city of Lynwood and it was approved. We had this practice [in Lynwood] of not having an open and competitive bidding process for contracts, which I found was very troubling in our city because oftentimes our contractors were abusing the contracts that they were being issued, and so we put an end to that. We put a resolution in the books that required every contract that was going to go out for competitive bid. So those are just a couple of the reforms that I spearheaded during my time on the city council. When I became mayor in 2005, I created an ad hoc committee that specifically worked on good government initiatives, including studying the creation of an ethics commission. I went to the city of L.A. to study what L.A .had, and I also went to the city of Oakland to study what the city of Oakland had. They had very progressive ethics commissions. I brought it to our city; unfortunately I wasn’t able to get the support to do that, but that’s certainly something that I’m interested in doing as a member of the legislature.

I believe that as a member of the state legislature, there are a number of things that we can do to create more transparency in our local governments and some of the things that I was able to achieve at the local level are some of the ideas that I’m interested in bringing forward at the state level. So in addition to serving and seeing through some of those initiatives that I mentioned, we also were able to complete a number of projects in the city. During my time, we approved the design and completed five new parks projects. We made parks a priority in our city. At that time there was funding at the state level for communities like Lynwood because communities like Lynwood are park deficient. So we were able to secure funding to build and design five new parks—and a brand new senior citizens center, which the city never had. We secured funding at the federal level through advocacy, meaning through traveling up to Sacramento and Washington, D.C., knocking on doors, working with our federal elected officials to secure funding for street improvement programs that we were able to deliver in Lynwood.

We also received funding to create a safe routes to school program in our city. And so we achieved a considerable amount in our short time there. I also served on the library commission. The county of L.A. has something called the library commission. I was appointed by L.A. County Supervisor Yvonne Burke, and during my three years there I was able to secure funding to get our Lynwood library renovated. So those are some of the things that I’ve been able to achieve as a city councilmember, through my hard work and advocacy on our behalf.

I hope to bring that level of representation for all of our communities in the state Senate. I currently serve on the Central Basin Municipal Water District Board of Directors. After leaving the City Council in Lynwood, I had no intention on coming back into politics. I was actually recruited by Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally who is also our former lieutenant governor here in California. He has a stellar record of public service in our state, I respect him a great deal. He came to me and said, ‘You were a great elected official in the city of Lynwood. You belong in our office and I want to help get you get elected to this water board that gravely needs the community’s voice.’ After his first call, I said, ‘Thank you, but no thank you.’ I have made my transition into teaching in the community college system. And he called me again. I said, ‘OK, let me think about it.’ I talked with my family about it and basically decided to go ahead and run for this water board. The water agency had a number of issues. I ran on a platform to reform the agency. I promised the voters—and I can give you copies of all my campaign literature as well—I promised the voters that I would get the agency audited; there were a number of questionable contracts that had been approved by the board. I promised to revisit those contracts. … Oftentimes, you know, reforming, when you make a decision that you want to reform agencies, that means coming up against a lot of interests. Big money interests have a lot at stake. And so I took them on and we cleaned up Central Basin. So I’m proud of the work that I’ve done as a council member. I’m proud of the work that I’ve done here in Long Beach, working for the Long Beach women’s shelter. I’m proud of the work that I’ve done as a council member and I’m proud of the work that I’ve done in education to impact our young people. So I have a very long history of public service and running for the state Senate is another opportunity for me to build on the public service record that I currently have.

How would you remain focused on the diverse and differing needs of the many cities you would represent and not forget about the needs of local government once you are in Sacramento?

I celebrate diversity in every aspect of my life. I have a very multicultural family. My husband is African American, I’m Latina. The 33rd District is one of the most diverse districts in the state of California. I believe that our diversity is our strength. I believe that each of our cities has its own unique needs. I’m a strong supporter of local government authority. I will work with all of the cities to ensure that the resources that are available in Sacramento are coming into our communities. I’m committed to working with all of our cities to make sure that all of the diverse needs are being properly represented in Sacramento, and also that the funding that we’re all entitled to, everyone is being given access to.

How would you address climate change?

I’ve had an opportunity to address climate change on the Metropolitan Water District board of directors. We actually implemented a climate action plan. As we know, climate change is very real. Our planet is getting warmer and warmer every day, which means that our water supply is decreasing. So we approved a climate action plan, at the Metropolitan Water District to ensure that we are focusing on reducing the emissions that are making our earth drier or hotter. So I look forward to continuing and building on that work that I’ve already done. I will be working with our environmental community to look at legislation that we can introduce to address that.

Some state leaders and legislators support action for the state to control local housing development.  This is a responsibility traditionally managed by local cities and their citizens. Should the state control local housing development?  What do you think of the governor suing a city on their housing policy as has occurred with Huntington Beach?

I believe in local control across the board. I think that each of our cities has a lot of similarities, but we each have our own unique needs. So I do believe that our cities should maintain their authority to implement policies as they see fit in their cities. With respect to the lawsuit against the city of Huntington Beach—I am not too familiar with the details. However, I am familiar with the fact that there are some cities that are not interested in doing affordable housing. So I will speak to that point: I believe that the issue of affordability and housing has to be distributed across the state. I don’t believe that only certain communities have the responsibility to do that. And so I would support legislation that evenly distributes that responsibility across the board.

What do you think should be the state’s role in preventing and solving the homelessness crisis?

Well it goes back to local control. I believe that obviously the state is in a position to allocate funding, and is in a position to help create programs for local governments and not just cities but county governments—and any other special districts that focus on that, including housing authorities. We have a number of cities that have housing authorities. And so I believe that the role of state government is to work in combination with [housing authorities] to create solutions that ultimately the local governments will implement.

Police use of force issue is a hot-button issue in this state and nationwide. There are competing use of force bills in the legislature right now. What is your position on use of force reform and do you support the pending legislative reforms?

We have had so many instances where that has been very clearly documented on social media and the news where there has been an excessive use of force. I believe that we have good law enforcement officers, and just as in any profession, we have some bad apples and I think that’s across the board, including journalists. We’ve got great journalists and we’ve got, you know not so great journalists. And I believe that the rotten apples should be properly dealt with. You know there needs to be some implications. There have to be ramifications that come with abusing the power and authority that we give to law enforcement officers. And we need to maintain our police officers’ accountability—and, you mentioned, police legislation. … I need to learn more about the legislation, but I will say that we need to hold people accountable that are abusing their power and authority.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District is pursuing a one-half cent sales tax measure that would raise about $1.4 billion each year to pay for clean-air projects such as zero-emission cars, trucks, trains and cargo equipment.  What is your position on this given that a major freeway corridor, the 710, runs through the district?

I would support a half cent sales tax measure if that money actually comes into our communities. You know, part of the challenge that we see in the northern part of the district is because we’re smaller communities. We’re often shortchanged when it comes to implementing regional sales taxes. I’ll give you a prime example: our voters in California approved two water bonds in the past seven years. Our communities have paid for that water bond through the taxes that were imposed, yet our communities are not seeing the funding to help us build the infrastructure that that tax was meant to help build. And so, while I support the idea that you just mentioned, I’m really interested in looking at the fine print to see where that money is going to go exactly and who’s entitled to apply for that money and how we’re going to be able to see it in our communities. That’s very important to me.

Similarly, what is your position on proposed plans to widen a 19-mile stretch of the 710 freeway through much of the district?

The city of Lynwood has been very vocal against the project. We have already been unduly burdened by the environmental impact and the air quality and other challenges that come with having a freeway—not only the 710 freeway, but the 105 Freeway. We’re pretty much surrounded by freeways and that has had a really horrible impact on our air quality and so we are very concerned.

Is there anything else about your candidacy you’d like voters to know?

Well, I have spent my entire adult life in public service. I have lived and worked in the district my entire life. I have a solid grasp of how local government functions. The fact that I have a track record of delivering on the promises that I’ve made to the voters, from reforming our local governments in the city of Lynwood and at the Central Basin Municipal Water Board, to actually delivering projects to our communities. As I mentioned, the parks in the city of Lynwood, our senior citizens center …  I hope that the voters in the district will judge me on my qualifications and what I have accomplished in the 33rd District.

Tom Cares

→ Read the entire interview with Tom Cares here.

As a Long Beach-based publication, we’d like to ask why you are the best prepared candidate to represent Long Beach’s interests in the State Senate?

I don’t know that I would have an answer that is actually specific to Long Beach, but I do believe I will go about representing the district in a different and better way. I’m promising to let every other candidate who is running introduce bills or essentially have me introduce bills on their behalf. I think this is an important way to better represent the district and all parts of it. And I can get more into that if you want, but also, I want to see how big an internship program that’s possible to have, and hopefully have hundreds, maybe even over 1,000 interns. Because I know there’s a lot of people in this district who could use help to get their career going, who could use things like that in their resume and those kinds of experiences. And I think if I can bring in potentially hundreds of people that get involved with my office that we’ll know a lot of what’s going on all over the district, in ways that a normal legislator will not. Definitely I want to do the best I can to really work hard for the specific needs of the people in this district and in Long Beach.

If elected, what would be the focus of the first piece of legislation you would propose?

One of my campaign promises was to introduce a resolution where California would declare that it would become independent in the event that Trump is re-elected. I wish we were in better times. There’s a lot of other things that are important to me. I wish I wouldn’t have to do that as maybe the first thing that I do. But, definitely the country is facing possibly going down a very dangerous and terrible path that can continue and get worse and worse. I know a lot of people in this district [feel] sure, we had our problems with presidents like Bush, but this time we had a demented, dangerous sociopath running the country and I think California has to take that ultimate stand against that. And I really believe this is very important, especially as a message that we’re sending to the world. Not since 1884 has a party denied its incumbent nomination through the presidency. And I would hope that if I could introduce this, if I could try to force legislators to take a position on it, they might realize it’s the right thing to do. And I think if California could do that, I do believe it would cause him to lose the GOP primary. It would really help the United States start to heal from this nightmare. So that’s a campaign promise I’ve made and there’s others things that I would love to also do really fast, but I think that might have to be the first thing that I’d probably do.  

Is there a particular endorsement or supporter which is especially relevant or meaningful to you? Why should voters give that specific one particular attention when considering your candidacy?

I haven’t really gone for endorsements at all. I think the endorsement process is corrupt. We have this hidden primary and it’s a mesh of donors and endorsers and these institutional power structures that are really just trying to maintain something that served them. It’s really not good for democracy. In fact, all of the questionnaires from labor unions and all these groups and in every questionnaire it ask how much money have you raised. Essentially, it really is all tied in with the money interest. Whereas, the special interests who have money are choosing someone who suits them and then they try put money behind them early. The press then thinks, ‘Oh this is a serious candidate, this is the candidate we have to pay attention to.’ And the labor unions and all the organizations, endorsements, they all fall in line behind that and before you know it, we have one candidate like we have in this election with over a million dollars supporting them and none of the other candidates having anywhere close to that. I really hope we put those days behind us. So I’ve just completely stayed out of that and decided not to go for any endorsements.  

Similarly, how would those endorsements or supporters impact your decisions or voting record if you were elected?

Because I haven’t really pushed to get endorsements, I have the ability to be completely objective, which I think will serve voters and residents of this district well.

How would you remain focused on the diverse and differing needs of the many cities you would represent and not forget about the needs of local government once you are in Sacramento?

Well we have a lot of local electeds running in this election. In fact as far as I know, me and the Green Party candidate are the only ones I think who are not elected, at the moment, to local office. So I do believe that even my promise to take half of the 40-bill limit and let the other candidates introduce 20 bills is really important to cover. And so the other 11 candidates in this election—even the one who isn’t campaigning anymore, but still, the other candidates in this election, they have a combined enormous wealth of knowledge of the district, diverse experiences that can definitely contribute and I know they all have their own supporters, people who have followed their careers for years. And I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do that as a way of giving a voice to everyone in their district. But I do believe in addition to everything else that would probably put me above and beyond in representing the whole district, particularly in regard to local issues because 10 of them are local electeds. I definitely want to be really engaging, have forums, have online forums that I’m very attentive to. And I also think having that large internship program would make it a lot easier for my office to pay attention to everything that’s going on in the district. I definitely want to do great work that I’m proud of. So even if it’s an issue that’s not on my radar, I still as a point of pride, want to really pay attention to everything that concerns everybody.

How would you address climate change?

My wife is actually probably about to give birth maybe today or tomorrow. And our daughter will probably be alive near 2100 and it’s really scary to think what will be left of our environment in the year 2100. I do believe Alexandria Ocasio Cortez was right when she said it’s not anymore about whether this is a problem or how big the problem is, it’s really now about the urgency. And it’s an existential threat to our species. So if there’s really anything we can do, we should do it. There are things we can do with transportation: I’d like the state to work on a network of electric cars that are hopefully, in an advanced way, are autonomous and synchronized and narrow, and can maybe drive closely by being synchronized. That could be an interesting solution for transportation to cut down on emissions from that. We definitely need a lot more solar energy and renewable [energy]. I think the Trump resolution could help because the best thing that really we could do for global climate change is to sanction, to have trade sanctions against nations that do not do their part. And leaving the Paris Accord was definitely a travesty. And yeah, even taxing meat might have to be something that’s on the table. Agriculture that produces meat is definitely a big strain on the environment. We want to be smart about it, have the right priorities, but prioritize the things that have the biggest impact. We definitely need to be doing everything we can. It’s the whole species that’s at stake here.

Some state leaders and legislators support action for the state to control local housing development.  This is a responsibility traditionally managed by local cities and their citizens. Should the state control local housing development?  What do you think of the governor suing a city on their housing policy as has occurred with Huntington Beach?

We know we have a housing shortage, we know it’s a problem. You would think: ‘Let’s build a lot more housing.’ I think part of what happens then is that homeowners maybe don’t want a lot more housing because if the supply of housing increases the value of the homes that they own might go down. But I think we have to set that aside. We need to increase housing, at least urban housing, by 2 percent per year, I’d say for seven years. Maybe start gearing up to do that in three years and do it for three to 10 years from now. And to do that, I’d say the state needs to not allow localities to have zoning restrictions—I mean having zoning restrictions that make it impossible to build that level of housing. We need to create incentives and where that doesn’t work, I even believed the state should actually just build the housing themselves. If removing obstacles and creating incentives isn’t enough, then I think the other state should build the housing itself to increase housing supply at those levels.  

What do you think should be the state’s role in preventing and solving the homelessness crisis?

So certainly what I just said, but also, San Francisco spends over $40,000, I believe, and I think it’s even without their recent increase that passed on taxing for that. As a state I think we’re spending over $30,000 per homeless person, but the problem really ends up being, well two things: with the money that we are willing to contribute to this problem, you could house everybody. But you probably couldn’t help everybody compete in these high demand housing markets to get housing. And then also there’s the issue of if you increase homeless services, so you clear the homeless people that we have now and you find them housing, the area that did that will likely attract more homeless people. Their sidewalks will now be cleared, it’ll be less competition and people might come hoping that they can get the same benefits from those services. It’s really a federal problem that the government doesn’t really address in the right way. But that doesn’t mean that California can’t do something about it.

So we’ve had this a long time. I mean, I first came here about 15 years ago and I remember the homeless problem back then and it seems to only have gotten worse. If we’re really going to solve it, I think we’d have to try to do something big. I think we’d have to try set up these free communities in areas that are less populated, which we could afford to do. We could build tiny houses and things and do it in a way that’s dignified for homeless people where they actually have their own space instead of a bed and a room with a hundred other beds or anything like that. But they actually have a shelter, a domicile that’s really for them only and they can have that dignity in an area that’s less populated, and they have resources there to help them with job training. I would even try to maybe cause a little mischief with the federal government, if I could, by maybe having, you know, if you put [housing] kind of maybe closer to the edge of California and Arizona or maybe put another one closer to the edge of the Oregon/Nevada border and have free buses that go back and forth to Phoenix between these communities. And free buses that go back and forth to Boise. That might get the attention of the federal government to really address this. So I think we’d have to be creative, but I do like the idea of trying to set up free communities where people can live without having to have money to pay for it, even if it’s a part of the state that’s not a high-demand place to live in. And people can then use that time and that peace more or less to learn things and work on themselves and prepare themselves to be contributing members of society.

Police use of force issue is a hot-button issue in this state and nationwide. There are competing use of force bills in the legislature right now. What is your position on use of force reform and do you support the pending legislative reforms?

So this unfortunately had to be an issue that I experienced in my life when I was 19 years old, which was 11 years ago. I was beaten by three deputies. It was pretty bad; I was walking with a limp for three weeks after. I had blood in my ear for five weeks after and it was very scary. I never at that time imagined how things are. So I definitely want to have zero tolerance for police brutality. I’ve come up with some ways I think we could achieve that. So one I think is to raise the bar and to weed out the worst 15 percent of police officers every year. That would essentially to have a system where we can easily receive complaints from people, analyze whether they are clearly stated allegations of misconduct and abuse of power. And even if they’re not proven, still keep the record of all that and then come up with a metric and determine who seem appear to be the 15 percent worst in every department. And unless they previously had multiple years in a row of good performance, that they would be terminated and replaced. And that will essentially keep raising the bar in that way. If there’s evidence of unnecessary police violence, the person who committed that violence should be immediately terminated but probably even more importantly, anyone who was aware of it and didn’t report it should also be terminated. And further, I think an entire precinct’s compensation should to some extent be tied to the number of times that there was unnecessary violence and another officer was aware of it and didn’t report it. And for every occurrence of that, their compensation for the entire precinct should be reduced. We need to have a culture of intolerance for this within police departments. Instead of you know, the cool thing to do for them they feel is to cover up with what their peers do. They should start to realize that this can’t be tolerated at all and it will impact all of them.

And I don’t believe this goes against public safety. This is I think necessary for public safety not just to protect the people who would otherwise be abused by police, but to help the police be more effective by being more trustworthy.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District is pursuing a one-half cent sales tax measure that would raise about $1.4 billion each year to pay for clean-air projects such as zero-emission cars, trucks, trains and cargo equipment.  What is your position on this given that a major freeway corridor, the 710, runs through the district?

A half-cent increase in sales tax isn’t particularly excessive. It’s reasonable, if it helps with pollution and has a positive impact in the environment and the money is spent well, then that would be something I’d support.  

Similarly, what is your position on proposed plans to widen a 19-mile stretch of the 710 freeway through much of the district?

I wouldn’t necessarily oppose it, but I do wish we could prioritize more innovative solutions. I mean there’s been a lot of studies on this: when you add lanes, a lot of times actually increases congestion. People are well aware that there are now more lanes and they think now they can drive and there’s less traffic and now you have so many more cars on the road that it actually makes things worse. We’ve seen that in LA for decades—it was trying to build its way out of this problem. I would prefer to prioritize a system where you have smaller vehicles that are autonomous, and like I said before, and I have a little graphic showing that on my website. Yeah I think there are more innovative solutions than building lanes. That’s not to say I would necessarily oppose that though.

Is there anything else about your candidacy you’d like voters to know?

Certainly, nobody begged me to run for this. I mean there are times—10 years ago I was asked to run for city council—but no one begged me to run for this. It’s something I decided to do and there’s a lot of sacrifice involved and I do that because I am trying to give an extraordinary opportunity to this district to try to have politics to rise up to higher levels with things like letting everyone else introduce bills. And there’s really a lot of other things that I want to push that I know probably no other candidate would. One of these things is a democracy platform. Which, I’d agree, is probably ahead of its time, but I think we know that in the future we will do democracy better than this. And so I think we can start experimenting with that now. That would be to create kind of an online platform where voters can vote in a democratic style. But also, where they can choose their favorite person to represent them to have their vote counted for theirs when they don’t vote. And this is I think a revolutionary way to really get governance right instead of having these elections every two and four years that are gamed and are very easy to corrupt because they are games. They are a contest literally. And you know who wins contests: the people who are most powerful and have the most advantage are doing the best. It’s not a great system for people who are not doing the best. But to be specific, just on that point really quick, I’d like to have the state create something like that, and because it’s still experimental it wouldn’t have binding power, but things that pass on that platform, the legislature could be required to vote on. Maybe some of the things that pass in that platform will go up as ballot propositions. So we never have the final say because it’s still an experimental idea but things like that could be revolutionary. Essentially, these seats, they’re always just filled by people who are going to fall in line, who are going to be rank-and-file. We have few candidates in the district who are getting contributions from legislatures in Northern California and other parts of the state and other districts because they know that they’re just going to be easy and not challenging and I think if the voters vote for those kinds of candidates, they’re shortchanging our potential. I want to go there to make people think about and work on things that otherwise might not be thought about and worked on. Even potentially using cryptocurrency to make personal potential invest-able, to give people the power that corporations have to leverage their potential. There’s a lot of big things that I want to try to at least get on the radar and hopefully even get passed. And I know I won’t make all of them happen, but if I lose I can’t make any of them happen. I would ask voters to consider that and take a step for their potential.

Ali Saleh

→ Read the entire interview with Ali Saleh here.

As a Long Beach-based publication, we’d like to ask why you are the best prepared candidate to represent Long Beach’s interests in the State Senate?

I was born and raised in the City of Bell. Went through the public school systems there and after went into education, then my family business. My parents had a mom and pop shop. In 2010 the scandal broke in the City of Bell. I went in as an activist who would hopefully bring justice to the community after the suffering of the high property taxes that were imposed on them and the mismanagement of public funds. I was a co-founder of the community group BASTA, which means “enough” in Spanish. It also meant Bell Association To Stop Abuse.

We were successful in putting two of the council members on the recall ballot and the other three were up for re-election anyway so there was no reason to recall them to confuse the voters. I decided to throw my name in on the ballot. There were quite a number of candidates that ran in that race as well. And I was successful with the highest votes in a community that is 96 percent Latinos.

We went in there, and I know you all reported on it as well. What we found out when we went in.. we went in with no government experience, we learned on the job. We went in with no city managers, no directors and not even a chief of police. We were on the brink of bankruptcy, a lot of the media even said there was no chance for the City of Bell to come out of the ashes. We were successful in keeping our police department, increasing the number of officers, we were able to continue the parks and rec programs and all the necessities that someone would expect from their local government.

Today, I’m happy to say that we’ve been able to build up a reserve of $20 million and without raising a cent on people’s taxes. That kind of qualifies me to be able to go into the state legislature, make sure we look at the responsibility of how money is being spent. A lot of the problem that we have is that this community in Southeast Los Angeles, from Long Beach to Huntington Park, is predominantly low-income communities and we have to figure out a way that…people are paying their taxes but how is it being managed? And how will we be able to physically make sure that our government is being responsible.

We have a supermajority already in the legislature so we have to now start working on the way to make government accountable. Corruption has been a problem in Southeast Los Angeles. We have to make sure that we audit local governments and make sure that they’re using the funds correctly and make sure that they’re being responsible with the money for residents of that city and so on.

If elected, what would be the focus of the first piece of legislation you would propose?

I’d make sure that we would look at…Again, it goes back to good governance and transparency. We have to look at a way to make sure that local governments are transparent and make sure that the good governance of being able to show the public of how their money is being spent.

San Jose has reached out to the FPPC to see how their reporting and the 700s the 460s, they’re asking them to take charge of it. Maybe we can have the whole state be able to do that because local governments do not have that many resources to be able to control all of that with the local electeds and people that are in charge of the jurisdiction and the money that is being spent in the cities.

That will be one of the key issues that I look at. 
But I’m also looking at education. Making sure that we find resources to put more funding for schools and teachers. Being that California is the fifth largest economy in the world and yet we’re 42 percent behind all the states across the country.

You probably will ask me about homelessness, but that’s another big issue that we have here in Los Angeles County.

And last is transportation. I also sit on the gateway city council of government that Long Beach is part of. I was president of that as well so transportation is a key thing that we’ll also be looking at.

Is there a particular endorsement or supporter which is especially relevant or meaningful to you? Why should voters give that specific one particular attention when considering your candidacy?

Two of my colleagues are teachers and one out of Maywood who is also a teacher. Again the reason why I feel those are important is because they understand how much I push for when it comes to schools and making sure that we get the resources that are for our students and our teachers to make sure that they’re able to succeed in education. From the legislative side I’ve received the endorsement of State Senator Anna Caballeros, Assemblywoman Susan Eggman and Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia.

Similarly, how would those endorsements or supporters impact your decisions or voting record if you were elected?

I’ve been endorsed and supported by a lot of people but that doesn’t impact when it comes to the needs of my community. The community comes first before anything. They’re the ones that have elected me and my voting record and what I’ve been able to accomplish in the City of Bell kind of transcends my accomplishments of being accountable to the people and making sure we do the right services, programs. We’ve not cut any programs, we’ve actually have increased it.

The Bell POA’s endorsement since day one and I’ve not been accountable to them, I’m accountable to the people. But public safety means a lot in our communities and hopefully that will be represented in the whole district.

How would you remain focused on the diverse and differing needs of the many cities you would represent and not forget about the needs of local government once you are in Sacramento?

I’ll definitely have a staff that kind of mirrors what my thoughts are and make sure that we have field representatives that will be all across the district to make sure that we’ll be able to let m know what is happening and how we can bring resources from the state level to all the cities. Obviously each city has a different need but we’ll definitely look at every need that is possible. Because at the end of the day it’s the district that elected me and I’m responsible to make sure that they get their needs done all across the district. And I’ll definitely do what I did in the City of Bell all across the district.

How would you address climate change?

Climate change is a good question because up and down the 710 Freeway we have the issue of a lot of the trucks, a lot of the emissions that are let go in the area. Also we had Exide in the City of Vernon that was a big issue that we dealt with.  I think that Exide was an issue that from the state level, getting them temporary permits for many many years without putting a stop to it. At the end of the day it ended up hurting the residents of Maywood, Bell and the surrounding cities. To this day they’re still cleaning up some of the dirt that is still around there. Our children, mothers, fathers that are walking around there and yet there’s no protection.

We have to start working with corporations and a lot of these trucks that are driving up and down the 710 Freeway are independently owned. We have to start working with them to start transitioning to clean-air trucks and have some grants that they can use to be able to transition.

Obviously it’s not a transition that can be from day one, but we should have a plan. Maybe from 1-5 years or from 1-10 years, but there should be a plan to transition these vehicles into clean energy.

Some state leaders and legislators support action for the state to control local housing development.  This is a responsibility traditionally managed by local cities and their citizens. Should the state control local housing development?  What do you think of the governor suing a city on their housing policy as has occurred with Huntington Beach?

Housing is a big issue and I think we need to find a solution. Cities should be the ones that are responsible for it and the state should not be imposing it. The state suing some of the cities, you know, we [Bell] were listed on it but we were listed as pending, we don’t have that much land. We have one of the biggest homeless shelters west of the Mississippi, we have over 500 beds in the Salvation Army shelter. We just approved 64 unit housing for people with disabilities and for those who were homeless in the past. So we’ve done our part, we’ll continuously work on that. Going back to Measure H that was approved in 2016, it’s time that we started using that money to be able to house some of the homeless that are all over LA County. I work in Downtown LA and you see some of the homelessness. We need to start treating these people as human beings and not something else. We need to start treating them as human beings and figure out a solution whether they have drug issues, mental issues or some people can’t go into a shelter because they have an animal. That dog is probably a comfort for them that could help them with their mental illness.

What do you think should be the state’s role in preventing and solving the homelessness crisis?

Their role should be to provide funding to some of the cities to be able to help with these homeless in every city. And to also impose that they have a solution to the problem. Obviously housing is a whole different aspect of the state getting involved with local jurisdictions to tell them how their housing should be. But I feel that there is funding that they can help out some of the cities that are transitioning people into housing, getting them off the streets. A lot of it is that it’s a big burden on public safety to deal with this. Fire departments keep getting calls about this. So, we need to  start helping these people and figure out a solution to get them off the street and hopefully the state can get funding to a lot of the cities around the district and around the state.

Police use of force issue is a hot-button issue in this state and nationwide. There are competing use of force bills in the legislature right now. What is your position on use of force reform and do you support the pending legislative reforms?

I think that a lot of police departments need to start getting resources on how to deal with the use of force. I think we need to figure out ways on how to push them back from use of force. In our community we’ve been successful in not having a lot of those problems of use of force. I think it’s a culture. I’m against any of that use of force if there’s a way to stay away from it.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District is pursuing a one-half cent sales tax measure that would raise about $1.4 billion each year to pay for clean-air projects such as zero-emission cars, trucks, trains and cargo equipment.  What is your position on this given that a major freeway corridor, the 710, runs through the district?

When it comes to taxes a lot of the people in the county tend to lean toward approving them. But the problem that we’re having is a lot of the funding is being misused or mismanaged. We have to figure out a way to keep it fiscally responsible in making sure that that money is used for what it was intended when it was first approved by the voters. If it’s going to be used for what it’s intended, then I’m totally for it.

Similarly, what is your position on proposed plans to widen a 19-mile stretch of the 710 freeway through much of the district?

I’m against it. We have enough trucks that go up and down the freeway, we don’t need any more of it.

Is there anything else about your candidacy you’d like voters to know?

I just ask people to look at my record of how I was able to turn the City of Bell from insolvency to being solvent with a $20 million reserve. We’ve been able to balance our budget every single year and our services were not cut. I’m very responsible when it comes to that. I’m a progressive reformer, someone that really understands what we go through. I was born and raised in the City of Bell and the three things that I’ve always wished upon my family is for them to have a roof on top of their heads, great education and great healthcare and I wish that upon every person in the State of California.

Jose Solache

→ Read the entire interview with Jose Solache here.

As a Long Beach-based publication, we’d like to ask why you are the best prepared candidate to represent Long Beach’s interests in the State Senate?

I just want to say thank you for the opportunity. It’s a really good opportunity to engage folks because the district goes from Pine and Park all the way to Long Beach, or the other way around. I think it’s very important that we get to talk to folks that represent the various parts of the district. So I just wanted to say thank you for the opportunity.  

It is crazy running for this office while having a full-time job.  I have to put that one the table. It’s been very difficult for schedule purposes. But nonetheless, we’re here and on that note, to your question, I do believe I am one of the most qualified candidates because I bring a lot of experience to the table. I’ve been elected five times to local office, three times to the school board and twice to the local city council.

From those five elections, the last four re-elections I’ve been a top vote getter. I’m in tune and connected to my local community. And I definitely believe and feel that taking that local experience to the state level will be very important. I’m a firm believer in local control. As a sitting council member I see the effects of how state legislation affects the local cities and how our contribution to the conversation also helps move forward state policy.

The difference between me and other people running for this seat is I don’t need to be the senator, I want to be the senator. And with that being said, I’ll highlight again my local experience and I look forward to engaging local communities from some of those smaller cities like Cudahy and Maywood, to some of the larger cities like Long Beach, and being representative of some of the local issues that we all share. Things like the 710 Freeway, the LA River, things that we all have in common because we all have that in all our communities. I look forward to being a voice and taking  our voices at the local level up to Sacramento.

If elected, what would be the focus of the first piece of legislation you would propose?

Something that I’m very intrigued by and is happening in our district is the environmental issues both in Paramount and in Maywood. I’m a firm believer that whoever wins the seat needs to make that priority. I would work with not only Speaker Rendon at the local level and partner up with him on issues as such, because they are very important. These environmental issues that affecting Paramount and Maywood are not something that can wait. I’m very happy to see that Speaker Rendon has made the the Exide issue a priority, and addressing that. But the communities of Paramount also need representation. That’s from the emergency status kind of or priority bills, and then one of my personal passions that I look forward to working on at the policy level is education, and specifically higher education.

I’m a former school board member for 10 years. I’ve been involved in higher education issues since my student government days. I always make the joke that I can get rid of Dominguez Hills but they can’t get rid of me because I started school literally 20 years ago in 1999 and this fall will be my 20th anniversary. I’ve been very engaged in higher education policy that affects not only the university but the CSU and community colleges. The three higher education school systems that we have in California.  

I’m very excited and I look forward to adopting good policy. I support Jerry Brown and all the good things that he did for our state but one of the things that happened was that funding for education was not equal. You can’t fund the CSU the same way you fund the UC system for example. We’re a much larger system. I know we all have our own priorities and needs but there’s no equity in funding both systems with the same amount.

We welcome it, but I think there needs to be a conversation about the different needs in each system. I know for a fact that the CSU has a lot of different needs than the UC, but again, someone that’s been very involved at that level, I’m very excited to be a part of that conversation. When asked by different groups that I’ve interviewed with about which committee do I want to sit on that’s the top committee that I would like to sit on. I know it’s not the quote/unquote “sexiest” committee or the most “juice”. That’s why I’m not running for Sacramento, I’m running for Sacramento to be a voice for the people.

And I know that campuses like Dominguez Hills, Cal State Long Beach are very important to our local communities here in District 33. Dominguez Hills for example is a campus that serves a lot of underserved communities like Lynwood and a lot of the southeast communities are feeder schools to Dominguez Hills.  So, again, from a very personal commitment that I have, it’s definitely the higher education conversation besides the priority bills that need to happen based on current needs of the district.

Is there a particular endorsement or supporter which is especially relevant or meaningful to you? Why should voters give that specific one particular attention when considering your candidacy?

I think there’s many endorsements that I’m proud of and excited to have from local leaders in our communities. But most recently it was announced that I received the Equality California endorsement in a time where the national conversation is going a certain way, a certain tone if I can put it that way, it’s important that we remember as one community we cannot forget that there still is that sense of equality in California, being what they are and what they represent and what they push for, and being a proud LGBT community member myself, I’m happy and honored to receive that endorsement.

To Long Beach specifically, outside of West Hollywood and San Francisco, we are a city that represents a lot of the LGBT community and I feel that that endorsement and the fact that I know how I represent in the district would  be very important to make sure that we advance the conversation. Not only from personal beliefs but from policy agenda, making sure that we are being one voice to all communities, especially those that are more vulnerable. And having been one of the grand marshals for the Long Beach PRIDE parade, this kind of endorsement means a lot to me on a personal level.

Similarly, how would those endorsements or supporters impact your decisions or voting record if you were elected?

There was a candidate forum last Wednesday in Long Beach to be exact and I was excited to attend. One of the questions they asked was ‘What about these groups that are getting involved, special interests for that matter’ and I want to answer that with your question. I want to repeat my answer to say that not every special interest is a wrong group. For example, I would gladly take a check from Equality California. I would gladly take a check from Planned Parenthood as two examples because those are two groups that I concur and believe in what they do. Not from a political angle only but from a basic 101, just things that make sense. What Planned Parenthood does and Equality California, to me they’re common sense issues and they’re beyond politics if that makes sense.

Another issue to me is immigration. The Dreamers, it’s common sense, it’s beyond Republicans and Democrats. It’s an issue that makes sense and why wouldn’t you give these students who have proven to be good members of society, because they were brought to this country by not their choice, but they’ve proven to be good members of society, they’ve received their education, they’re paying their dues in every sense of the word. So, to me, it’s in that same arena of common sense. It should be beyond politics and the current partisan politics that we have, not only at the state level but obviously at the federal level.

How would you remain focused on the diverse and differing needs of the many cities you would represent and not forget about the needs of local government once you are in Sacramento?

I think the fact that I am a local mayor in the district helps me understand the needs of not only my local community but also it helps me understand the neighboring communities. In my role I’ve worked with South Gate, Maywood, and their different needs. Some needs are not just local needs and they’re southeast needs.  

One issue for example is the LA River conversation. There’s been a working group that we’ve all been part of through different discussions and that’s one unifying issue that has united all our different cities. And it’s a reminder to me that when I become state senator I will not only represent Lynwood, as I happily and proudly do today, but I would represent the entire district. And I’m very cognizant of the issues that are not always overlapping but are also very important to make sure that each person that lives in the district feels like they’re being represented regardless of what city you live in.

Even though I grew up and my life has been Lynwood, I do work in the southeast a lot. I am very cognizant that Paramount, Lakewood and Long Beach are also part of the district and I look forward to being a voice for the communities there as well.

In fact, yesterday, a very cheesy moment…my partner and I were driving down to Long Beach and we were driving down literally the edge of the district. I wanted to get a really good sense of where the district separates. We were driving down Ximeno, Spring Street, Carson, we were kind of driving along the borderline of the district trying to understand the sense of the district divide.

All of the rest of the district include whole cities but Long Beach, Lakewood and obviously parts of LA only include parts of the city. Obviously it’s a good majority of Long Beach but it was interesting to see how they cut the divide. I think we made a left on 7th Street off of Ximeno and then a right onto a little street, one of the “T” words”, I forget off the top of my head, and then a right onto Spring Street and then down Carson Street and then Lakewood.

It was a very interesting perspective to understand. So my partner and I were driving and I said ‘I don’t know many more candidates are doing this to just understand, more in depth, the district.’  I know it may sound cheesy to someone but to me it was very important to get a better sense of where my advocacy level will have to be and so I would never forget the parts of Long Beach that I would be representing.  

How would you address climate change?

I think the conversation that’s happening at the national level with this New Green Deal is a good conversation for folks to have and we can’t ignore the fact that what we do as human beings, literally as a society—this is beyond the district by the way—it affects climate change.

Does it exist? Of course. Do we have to fund it more at the state level through science and other funding sources? Absolutely. And I would be very committed to making sure that these science communities through our state funding gets our attention because only through research and more data are we going to understand the full impact of climate change.

I’m very cognizant of the fact that we have an issue that affects all of us regardless of what borderline I’m driving through in which district. It affects everyone. And I think we need to make sure that we are supportive at the state level with legislation that affects climate change.

Some state leaders and legislators support action for the state to control local housing development.  This is a responsibility traditionally managed by local cities and their citizens. Should the state control local housing development?  What do you think of the governor suing a city on their housing policy as has occurred with Huntington Beach?

We read and saw that Governor Newsom was in Long Beach. I saw Robert Garcia and other local leaders with him. I think I applaud that Governor Newsom is having this conversation because it’s every city’s responsibility to address affordable housing. As a proud Lynwood mayor I’m proud that we’re addressing this issue at the local level and we’re increasing affordable housing.

One of the things that I hear not only at the local level but you hear this ripple effect of sound of people saying ‘Well I support affordable housing but not in my backyard.’ That has to be a conversation that needs to be addressed because if that’s the case we wouldn’t have affordable housing. It’s very critical that at the local level but at the state level we are very mindful that we have to make sure that as we push forward policy at the local level to increase affordable housing that we’re very conscientious that it takes an education level of informing our local communities. This whole thought of ‘Not in my backyard’ needs to go away because we need to address and we need to increase it.

It’s very important to me that when I become a state senator that I work with the mayors and local elected officials to make sure that we’re all doing our part to increase affordable housing and that we have a crisis statewide. And I think that a solution of building more affordable housing is critical to the different communities that we’re supposed to represent. This is why we have a homeless issue as well because we don’t have enough affordable housing because people just can’t afford it. So, anything that we can do as elected officials then we need to make sure that we advance that agenda.

I’m proud again that from a local level we’re doing that and I would only echo that sentiment and thought process at the state level.

What do you think should be the state’s role in preventing and solving the homelessness crisis?

To not sound repetitive, at the local level and working with the counties specifically, we’ve been very instrumental in working and addressing it from a very local basis. But statewide I believe there really has to be an increase of housing statewide and the state needs to do their part to be  supportive to local communities to advance that. It kind of goes in hand with what I was talking about with the last item but I definitely think the state needs to encourage and push cities to do this because the homeless community is only growing and I think that we need to be responsible.

Obviously the county Measure HHH and other things are good to move the conversation forward but at what point do we start addressing it more directly? We’ve partnered up ourselves with local non-profits in our city and they’ve been able to place some of these homeless individuals into homes and shelters but it really takes a community effort to do that. I don’t believe it’s just one person’s responsibility to do that, or one jurisdiction. But I think it’s a combination of all of us and at the state level, again, to make sure that we bring the resources, specifically to communities that need.

Bell, for example has one of the largest shelters in that part of the district. I applaud that Bell has done those efforts but we need to do more of that in other cities.

Police use of force issue is a hot-button issue in this state and nationwide. There are competing use of force bills in the legislature right now. What is your position on use of force reform and do you support the pending legislative reforms?

It’s an issue that needs our attention. For example, as a local policy maker I work closely with our sheriff’s because our city is LA County Sheriff’s. But I also have life experiences with some of my family members, cousins, have, in my personal opinion, have gone through a process where because of who they are and what they look like, have not received the best representation. These issues are very real to me and we need to make sure that our community members have the same opportunities that anyone else would. Where your ZIP code is at should not dictate what kind of representation you get.

It’s a very touchy issue, obviously, because law enforcement feels and believes that they need to do as much as possible to do their work, but there’s also the human side of our job—and that’s to make sure that all these community members feel that when they’re being addressed by law enforcement that they’re being given a fair shot. That’s a very interesting working relationship because on one hand we’re saying how do we improve the force our law enforcement uses on our communities, but also how do we address it when our communities are not being treated fairly.

It’s a hard conversation to have but it needs to be had. That’s the point of my response. And we have to work with law enforcement on this because this is a real conversation that needs to be had, and needs to be continued to be had because it’s not going to go away.  

We’re not going to pass one policy or legislation item and it will be over. I don’t want to compare it to other controversial issues, but this issue is not going to go away with just one policy. And I think the conversation needs to be continued. Our community needs to feel they’re being given a fair process, but at the same time our cops and officers need to be able to do their job.

It’s a hard situation to be in but I’m committed to having the conversation with law enforcement and groups that represent criminal justice issues. Again, it’s very real for me because I have family that’s not had the best, fair process.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District is pursuing a one-half cent sales tax measure that would raise about $1.4 billion each year to pay for clean-air projects such as zero-emission cars, trucks, trains and cargo equipment.  What is your position on this given that a major freeway corridor, the 710, runs through the district?

I want to be very, very specific and out loud about this sentiment. The fact that AQMD exists, I want to applaud that because a lot of our communities would be seeing a lot more injustice. So, I’m glad they exist because they help keep all of us in check.

And I say “we” and mean city staff and local policy makers. I’m not sure about a tax at this point because I did not know that that’s what they’re moving forward. But at a time where our residents feel they’re over-taxed already—before we give that green light I’d like to see data, I’d like to see where this would go. Obviously if the data proved that this would be a benefit, I would be more than open to do it, especially if it’s going to help with environmental issues in our local district. But I would just be hesitant to support another tax measure after the most recent ones that we’ve had for a while.

We’ve had a couple of them recently, so, I think that our taxpayers are feeling the brunt of this taxation in general. But, if the data and the need is there then it’s a conversation that needs to be had.  I’m open to potentially supporting but I can’t commit to it not knowing the full details of it. As of today.

I invite anyone that is pushing for this item to seek endorsements from local elected, and in this case, god willing I’ll be your next senator for SD33 and I’m more than willing. My doors will be open to having the conversation about why my constituents in SD 33 should support his item.

But yes, the 710 is very real, and anything the AQMD does to protect our constituents via their advocacy work and their actual work to help some of the 710 issues as the example, i’m very happy that they exist and they do that kind of work.

Similarly, what is your position on proposed plans to widen a 19-mile stretch of the 710 freeway through much of the district?

I think Pasadena, first of all, needs to realize that they are part of our community and that the 710 doesn’t only affect the southeast and Long Beach communities, it effects them too. For them to say ‘Not in my backyard’ is very unfair. I think that anything we can do to advance the conversation that they too are going to be affected, they need to be part of this conversation.

For displacing our community, I’m not in favor of that. I have residents that live literally off the 710 freeway. In fact, I’ve written a letter in the past to oppose that measure. I’ve not only spoken up about it, I’ve sent a letter to speak against displacing our local community members. I come from an immigrant community background and when our community members have invested their life savings, their life everything into a home we need to make sure that not only from a sensitive issue, that this has been all they’ve invested in.

For them to buy property next to the 710 and now they’re being displaced it’s not fair, not only to the place in Lynwood, but the other communities that are along the 710. I’m not very supportive of expanding the 710 project.

Is there anything else about your candidacy you’d like voters to know?

I am excited about the opportunity. Them choosing me to be their state senator they’re going to have someone that’s going to be a hard worker. I’m going to put my time and energy in every part of the district. Not only in the campaign, as I’m doing here today, but during the actual governing part of the job. Regardless of what city you live in in SD33, I plan to be a voice for every city.

And if that means I have to go to Long Beach one day from Maywood then Bell and back to Lakewood…I’m committed to doing that. And I say that because one of my experiences as a local mayor is being truly engaged in the community is how you understand the issues in the community. It’s not only about having a presence, it’s about truly being engaged. And again, I repeat, I don’t need to be the senator. I don’t need the title. I want to be the senator because I want to do the people’s work. I want to be the voice.

Clearly, I’m not Sacramento’s choice and that’s okay because I don’t need Sacramento’s blessing or support to be the senator. I need the people to believe in what we want to do and how we want to be a voice for the community. I’m very confident that as long as we all unite our voices then they will obviously make their vote at the polls and send me to Sacramento. And I’ll never forget where I’ve come from.

The same way that I put my time and energy into Lynwood, as I’ve proven to do that, I plan to do that for the whole district. Again, I’m excited for the opportunity and I look forward to being a voice for SD33 because we have a lot of issues.

One of the things we haven’t talked about is the coastal issues. We have the coast here in Long Beach and we have to be very conscientious that that’s a real issue not only for our state as a whole but it’s an issue for our district. Maybe a senator that is on the east side of the state might not care as much about things that affect the coast because their district is not. Not that they wouldn’t care but we have to be very in tune to the issues that are happening in our district.

We obviously have to be a voice for the state but we also can’t forget that word ‘Voice for the district.’ That’s why we have representation via senate districts and assembly districts. And for me, I’ll never forget that I’m the local SD33 representative. Yeah, there’s big picture items that we also have to look at but very mindful that maybe a senator not in tune with what happens with coastal issues because their district does not have Long Beach, for example.

I’m very in tune with that and the effects that it would have on the community if we don’t speak up. Again, I look forward to representing the district and I want to invite all the residents in SD33 to have a hard working senator regardless of which city I’m at that day.

One of the last things I feel why I’m qualified to run is that I have roots in two-thirds of the district. I’ve worked 13 years of my life in the non-profit world in the southeast with a meals on wheels program representing cities like South Gate , Maywood, Bell, Bell Gardens. To them I represent the central part of the district in Lynwood as an elected official. And lastly, I run the Chamber of Commerce in the City of Lakewood. So, once this election goes to a top-two, my pitch to the district is that I have roots from the northern part of the district to the south part of the district. I feel that two-thirds of the district, I have worked in these communities. So it’s not that I just moved into the district just to run for office, I feel very connected to these communities. So, I look forward to taking that into also places like Long Beach.

Denise Diaz

→ Read the entire interview with Denise Diaz here.

As a Long Beach-based publication, we’d like to ask why you are the best prepared candidate to represent Long Beach’s interests in the State Senate?

The reason I would be the most qualified and viable candidate is, not just my work as a current council member but my work for the past 15 years for an entire district. I went to local schools throughout the 33rd District: Cal State Long Beach, South Gate, Lynwood, so I know the needs of education equity that is desperately needed in our district. Also, the numerous health factors that occur in our community. I’ve been implementing environmental awareness in my community, especially in the southeast and the passion, the drive, the hunger for equity and change that I have.

If elected, what would be the focus of the first piece of legislation you would propose?

Definitely education equity. I still have youth being taught out of bungalows, I have graduation rates still at 40 percent and those numbers are unacceptable for me.

Is there a particular endorsement or supporter which is especially relevant or meaningful to you? Why should voters give that specific one particular attention when considering your candidacy?

I am the only candidate that is the candidate of mayors: the mayors of Bell Gardens, Huntington Park, South Gate, Vernon, all supported me because they feel that Sacramento has overlooked them and overlooked the southeast. So, having these key community leaders supporting me and being there day-to-day, weekends, whether it’s last night having stuffing parties (for campaign mail), it’s them seeing that I am capable of taking on that task and that commitment.

Similarly, how would those endorsements or supporters impact your decisions or voting record if you were elected?

It’s the support that they have from their own constituents that is going to get me there. For example, just in South Gate we have 5,000 high propensity votes, the city of Bell Gardens has 3,000 high propensity votes, the city of Huntington Park has 2,500 high propensity votes. So, this comes down to a numbers game and numbers don’t lie.

How would you remain focused on the diverse and differing needs of the many cities you would represent and not forget about the needs of local government once you are in Sacramento?

We do need quarterly meetings with key agencies from our LGBTQ community, from law enforcement agencies, and that hasn’t been done. That’s one thing I implemented: I told the law enforcement I needed a sit-down. Also, school districts: I have Long Beach school district, I have LAUSD, I have Lynwood, we need to have quarterly the meetings to see what’s going on in each district, whether it’s school board, whether it’s the law enforcement, whether it’s the LGBTQ community, the immigrant community. [We need to] be accessible and be on the ground.

How would you address climate change?

Just by living in our district, we lose 10 years of our lives, right? A recent study came out that communities of color have an additional 40 percent of air pollution. Currently, what I did as council member in South Gate, like I had mentioned to you, I started a Community Environmental Action Team after finding out that South Gate has four Superfund sites, so with that we collaborated with AQMD and we put air quality monitors throughout South Gate. We have 32 of them. So that’s what I did on the local level, now on a statewide level, we really need to implement more focus on that. The asthma rates are alarming in my district. [We need] more green space. We are going to have two new parks in South Gate. We’re going to have the urban orchard, which is a one-of-a-kind park, it’s going to be a storm water capture. So, as we know, green space are natural filters, we need to implement more of that. We need more green space in our communities and kept up parks because when we go to Bell Gardens, when we go Cudahy, these parks are not well kept up.

Some state leaders and legislators support action for the state to control local housing development.  This is a responsibility traditionally managed by local cities and their citizens. Should the state control local housing development?  What do you think of the governor suing a city on their housing policy as has occurred with Huntington Beach?

So that’s interesting, actually I was just having this conversation with my city manager. And the reason I am saying the “southeast” is because we are extremely dense communities. The city of South Gate, the last Census states that we are 95,000, but the police department is estimating about 115,000. Huntington Park is another one that is having difficulty, so with that, we lose local control when we don’t have these legislators who understand what is going on. What I do believe in is expanding Section 8; I think that’s needed. Also, student housing, affordable housing is definitely needed. It comes down to the issue of accessibility and supply, right? I do believe in giving incentives to certain developments to come into our town, but what people need to know—and I want to  welcome them to my community—it’s where are we going to build? So the governor doing that, [my question is]: Where are we going to build, where’s Huntington Park? Where’s Cudahy? Where’s Maywood? It absolutely makes no sense. So I invite them to walk the streets of our communities before implementing these laws which affect us.

What do you think should be the state’s role in preventing and solving the homelessness crisis?

What’s key is mental health. There’s two things I am going to focus on and I am going to focus on two main aspects: one officer, a caseworker, that just focuses on immigrant affairs and the other one on mental health. It’s a growing epidemic that is so needed, so that is key. And also wages, people are living paycheck to paycheck. I mean the cost-of-living is skyrocketing and I am seeing more and more people just sending me private messages and telling me like, ‘Oh there’s this family that’s living out of their vehicle,’ and how do we work with that?

Police use of force issue is a hot-button issue in this state and nationwide. There are competing use of force bills in the legislature right now. What is your position on use of force reform and do you support the pending legislative reforms?

I think what we have to understand is: I implemented a sensitivity training in our police department, which was key. But secondly, officers are not the police officers that we once had: now they’re having to deal with numerous things. When I’ve gone on ride-alongs, they have to be mediators, therapists and they are dealing with a lot of homeless individuals out there that do have mental health issues. So that’s something that we really do have to look into: how are we there for both our community and our public safety officers, right?

I’ll be honest, the city of Bell Gardens next week is going to have now cameras on each police officer. I think it’s key to implement that just to see what is going on in the streets and like I mentioned to you, sensitivity trainings are definitely needed, but we know when they go out there, they are dealing with individuals that do have mental health issues.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District is pursuing a one-half cent sales tax measure that would raise about $1.4 billion each year to pay for clean-air projects such as zero-emission cars, trucks, trains and cargo equipment.  What is your position on this given that a major freeway corridor, the 710, runs through the district?

Like I mentioned to you, we worked with them, we added 32 air quality monitors throughout South Gate,  thanks to them. We also implemented a program in five schools in South Gate just to educate our youth on the air quality that’s occurring. The 710 corridor feeds our entire country, but it is killing us. We lose 10 years of our lives because of it. So, what happens, there is these vehicles that are costly for our community. My community is making less than $40,000 a year. So, when they wanted to make it all green, who’s going to afford that? Let’s make it accessible and at a price range that our community could afford. The charging stations, where are they at? They are either down here in Long beach, there’s one in South Gate, but other than that, my communities do not have charging stations.

Similarly, what is your position on proposed plans to widen a 19-mile stretch of the 710 freeway through much of the district?

I oppose it.

Is there anything else about your candidacy you’d like voters to know?

Yes, I think our candidacy is, if you start following us on social media, it really is a grassroots campaign. If you look at who is giving me money, it’s local businesses, it’s mom-and-pop shops, it’s friends and families doing bake sales and I might be the candidate with the least amount of money, but we have been able to make it. And I think we definitely are going to make history. And people get astonished or amazed at how we have been able to get so far with such little money, but when you believe in someone, I think we are going to make it through, we are.