L.A. City Council 8th District Race Shows No Signs Of Cooling Down
Bernard Parks, incumbent candidate for the Los Angeles City Council's eighth district race, was not present to debate at a special candidate forum held in South Los Angeles Thursday, a fact his competitors attempted to use to their advantage.
"I believe it's disrespectful to the people of this community," said candidate Forescee Hogan-Rowles of Parks' failure to attend, receiving a great deal of applause from the forum audience.
The Empowerment Congress North Area Neighborhood Development Council (NANDC) hosted the forum for the candidates running for the Los Angeles City Council seat representing the 8th district.
A representative for Parks read a statement, saying that Parks was unable to attend due to prior obligations and that his inability to attend had been made clear to Shawn Simons, President of NANDC.
"As I am the aforementioned Miss Simons, that's not exactly how it went down," said Simons to those in attendance after informing Parks’ representative that the allotted time for his remarks was up.
Jabari Jumaane, also a candidate for the eighth district seat, told the forum audience that he had been at the same event as Parks, but had still made a point of attending the NANDC gathering. Jumaane also noted, with some humor, that perhaps with Parks’ absence he would be able to get a word in edgewise, likely referring to a Tuesday debate in which the Los Angeles Times reported that Parks and Hogan-Rowles had largely ignored Jumaane as they attacked each other.
The race between Parks and Hogan-Rowles parallels other political battles taking place across the nation in places like Ohio and Wisconsin, with labor unions throwing their support behind Hogan-Rowles to the tune of around $800,000.
When asked by the moderator of the forum if she felt that the amount of money being contributed to her campaign by labor unions was a bit obscene Hogan-Rowles responded by saying, “Well since it’s on my race, of course I don’t think it’s obscene.”
“With all due respect,” said Jumaane in response to the question regarding Hogan-Rowles’ campaign contributions, “everybody in this room has an interest. I don’t begrudge them that.”
Jumaane, a firefighter for 25 years, described his campaign as a “grassroots” campaign and said that he is not beholden to special interest groups.
“It’s not all about money,” Jumaane joked, “ask Meg Whitman.”
“You can’t fault her for getting support,” said Jumaane told Neon Tommy in an interview, “but what do they want back?”
L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said in a brief interview that the Eighth District has more residents belonging to unions than any other district.
“Parks doesn’t understand his base,” said Ridley-Thomas, “He’s fighting his own constituents.”
Ridley-Thomas, who has feuded with Parks since a contentious election for supervisor, has come out in support of Hogan-Rowles, but not all of the members of the Board of Supervisors are in accord on the matter. Parks enjoys the support of Supervisors Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslovsky, according to the Los Angeles times, and the support of the Times itself.
“Only one person represents this area and has gotten votes in this district,” said Ridley-Thomas, referring to his position on the Board of Supervisors.
Ridley-Thomas also said that Parks’ campaign had released a mailer that claimed the support of people who are already dead.
In fact, LA Weekly reported that the list on the mailer appears to date from 2003 when Parks first ran for his council seat.
“It even has my name on it,” said Ridley-Thomas, who supported Parks in the past but now opposes him. “This is an all-time low.”
Though the entire evening was not purely an exercise in bashing Parks, Hogan-Rowles did frequently go on the attack as she outlined her plans for the city.
“Parks received more than 30 contributions from liquor stores,” said Hogan-Rowles when the conversation turned toward what many consider to be an overabundance of the establishments. “Some of these are the same stores that sell to minors.”
At previous forums, Park has critized Hogan-Rowles for her lack of knowledge about the district, including the locations of some city-owned properties. At a meeting of the L.A. Coliseum Commission on Wednesday, Hogan-Rowles praised the commission for kicking raves out of the venue. The Coliseum Commission has taken no such official action, though one rave was moved to Las Vegas by the promoter.
The elections are scheduled for March 8, and ultimately voters will be expected to decide between grassroots, labor dollars and the experience of an incumbent in a race that has been marked by its mudslinging.
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