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Recap: 2014 L.A. County Democratic Party's 2014 JFK Awards

Max Schwartz |
June 5, 2014 | 9:25 p.m. PDT


LACDP Chairman Eric Bauman. (Max Schwartz/Neon Tommy)
LACDP Chairman Eric Bauman. (Max Schwartz/Neon Tommy)

The Los Angeles County Democratic Party held their 2014 JFK Awards Awards Reception on Thursday night at USC’s Town & Gown. The 2014 honorees were California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, former California State Assembly Speaker pro Tempore (2010-2012) Fiona Ma, the California Medical Association’s Chief Strategy Officer the Honorable Jay Hansen, Southern California District Council Laborers President Sergio Rascon and 33rd District Congressman Henry A. Waxman.

Waxman is retiring after 40 years in Congress.

Ma received the Kam Kuwata Partnership Award; Rascon received the Miguel Contreras Leadership Award; and Waxman received an award recognizing his Lifetime Achievement.

The awards have been held for at least 20 years and this is the first time, at least under Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman’s tenure, that the event was not held at Dodger Stadium.

Other elected officials that attended the event were: Congressman Xavier Becerra, Congresswoman Karen Bass, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Congressman Alan Lowenthal, State Senator Ted Lieu, State Senator Alex Padilla, former State Senator Sheila Kuehl, Assembly Speaker Emeritus John A. Perez, L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and L.A. County Supervisor-elect Hilda Solis. Becerra is the chair of the House Democratic Caucus. There were several other members of the California State Assembly and former members of the Assembly in attendance as well. In addition, multiple local elected officials were also in attendance, including L.A. officials: City Attorney Mike Feuer, Controller Ron Galperin, and councilmen Paul Koretz, Paul Krekorian and Curren Price. Board members ranging from community college board to water district boards to library district board were also in attendance.

Harris and Waxman were unable to attend the event.

Bass presented the award to Harris and in doing so, she said, “we are proud to honor this rising star….” Harris did make an appearance via recorded video.

Perez presented the Kam Kuwata Award to Ma, saying Ma was “brought to public service” by “her desire to make a difference.” Perez said he was proud to work with her and listed some of her achievements while she was in the Assembly. He also said that she will be able to use her CPA background as a member of the Board of Equalization, a position she will start in January. (She does not have go through the general election because she received 68.6 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary.) Perez also said that “she is an amazing and a tenacious fighter,” when discussing how she ran through swing districts because she was worried about not completing the list of houses. Perez praised her ability to be Speaker pro Tempore.

“I just want to say that I just want to thank you for appointing me Speaker pro Tem,” Ma said to Perez when she took the stage to accept her award. “All of us in this room are part of the American way, American dream. We all have a seat of the table. That is why I love the Democratic Party.”

Ma also discussed Kam and when she met him and then said, “I am just honored to be standing here, getting this award.”

Before the presentation of the next award, Bauman took the podium. During his speech, he called the honorees “extraordinary people.” He said Waxman “has been an extraordinary champion and we’re going to miss him.”

Solis, last year’s winner, presented Rascon his award. Before the presentation, she talked about Miguel Contreras, the labor leader that the award is named after. She said that Contreras “helped provide the leadership necessary for those who did not have a voice.” She said, “I remember he coined the phrase, ‘warrior for the working people.”’

She said Rascon has made “many, many changes,” and that he “cares about his folks, his members.” She called him a “risk taker” and said that he had an early vision for renewable vision. “I give you a lot of credit for bringing that [renewable energy] home,” Solis said to Rascon. “This is certainly day for labor, for the Democratic party…” Solis said as she called Rascon to come up to the podium.

Rascon said he was “humbled” to have Solis give him the award. He mentioned other people in the labor movement and the other locals. He said, “only in America…I started as a shoe shine boy…and then I worked the fields…so I can identify myself with Miguel [Contreras]…” specifically about the struggles field workers go through. He then told a story about his shoe shining days in which he said he called a meeting with the three other shoe shiners because some were charging less than 25 cents. He said he wanted them all to promise they would not charge less than 25 cents. He says that was like his start. He said he is “proud to be a laborer, always a laborer.”

The next award to be given was the John F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award, which went to Waxman. Becerra was called to the podium to present the award and then he asked Bass and Waters to join him on the stage. He told Rascon to never stop fighting. The head of the Democratic Caucus then went through some of Waxman’s achievements. “Henry Waxman has been a champion for almost every progressive cause you can think of,” Becerra said. He called Waxman a progressive Democrat.

A video tribute for Waxman was then played. The video included Lisa Pinto, his district director, former Congressman Howard Berman, Los Angeles City Councilman Bob Blumenfield and former Controller Rick Tuttle, among others. Everyone in the video praised Waxman and/or went through some of his accomplishments. 

After the video, Becerra had Waters say a few words about Waxman. She said for Waxman, it was always about the work. She said Waxman has the same tenacity now as he did when the pair was in the California State Assembly.

Bass followed Waters. She said that Waxman’s book tells the reader how did did everything he did in terms of policy. She said she was angry at Waxman when he said he was not running because she will have only worked with him for four years.

Waxman then appeared via taped video. He talked about the Watergate class he was part of and then about members of the Tea Party and his colleagues. He said he cannot just name one bill when asked which one of his bills is the most influential. He said that even though he is getting the lifetime achievement award, “it’s not the end of my life.” He said that he would “continue fighting” for important causes.

After various shout outs, Vice Chair of the California Democratic Party was called up to the podium to give the award to Jay Hansen. She said that “he owned that capitol,” and that he got so much legislation passed when he worked for the California Building & Construction Trades Council. She said he is now on the Sacramento City Unified School District board and that he said he does it for the children. She noted that he had previously been a “behind the scenes” person.

Hansen said that he still calls himself an Angeleno. He tried to take his good move with him to Sacramento and he said that he is still an Angeleno at heart. “I didn’t come from Democratic stock…this party has been such a good inspiration to me….” He said the names of some of the people who he worked with in the past, including former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg. He called the party “a great thing” and said that so many great people have gone through it. He said the award means “a lot to [him].”

One of the motifs through the night was that events such as this help the Los Angeles County Democratic Party elect candidates.

There were several corporate sponsors, but many elected officials were sponsors as well. Multiple associations and other Democratic organizations were also sponsors. (Those were not all of the sponsors.)

Bauman and Jon Bauman, his uncle and member of the band Sha Na Na, sang to close the event after remarks by the emcee.

Reach Editor-at-Large Max Schwartz here; follow him on Twitter here.



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