Former Assemblymember Warren Furutani on Feb. 12 officially announced his support of former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka as he campaigns for sheriff of Los Angeles County.

Tanaka, who is also mayor of Gardena, has garnered strong support from Los Angeles County community leaders and public safety officials. He reportedly raised over $381,000 last quarter, having outpaced all opponents in the race, including former Sheriff Lee Baca, who has since announced his decision not to run.

Paul Tanaka and Warren Furutani (Rafu Shimpo photos)
Paul Tanaka and Warren Furutani (Rafu Shimpo photos)

“Throughout my work in the State Legislature, I have always advocated for the promotion of social justice, equality and civil rights,” said Furutani. “As a longtime resident of the Gardena area, I have seen the results of Paul Tanaka’s direct leadership. His passion for public service and his effective management style has resulted in a $10 million surplus, the lowest crime rates in 50 years and a sharp increase in community-centered programs that benefit the residents of Gardena.

“I am proud to support him for sheriff and look forward to seeing the same results in the Sheriff’s Department as I have seen in Gardena.”

“Warren’s involvement in communities throughout Los Angeles County is unparalleled,” said Tanaka. “I’m honored to have him join Team Tanaka.”

He added, “Our job as law enforcement officials is to protect the public with the highest standard of conduct and character. As guardians of the law, it’s up to us to protect the civil rights of every resident of Los Angeles County regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.”

With more than 45 years of experience in education and public service, Furutani has always been a staunch advocate for equal opportunity and social justice. Beginning as a civil rights activist in the 1960s, he worked tirelessly to establish admissions programs for students of color at colleges and universities. He helped many campuses establish ethnic studies classes and was instrumental in UCLA and CSU Long Beach adopting an Asian American studies program.

In 1987, Furutani was the first Asian Pacific Islander American to be elected to the Board of Education for the Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest school district in California. In 1999, he was elected to the Board of Trustees for the  Los Angeles Community College District, the largest community college district in the country. He is the only person to be elected and re-elected to both boards.

In 2007, Furutani was elected to the State Assembly, where he was appointed chair of the Public Employees Retirement System and Social Security Committee and introduced pension reform measures, including Assembly Bill 340, which ended the abusive practices of pension spiking and double-dipping.

In 2008, he authored Assembly Bill 37, which granted honorary college degrees to Japanese Americans whose education was disrupted due to their wrongful incarceration during World War II.

Recently, he served a brief term as an appointee of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on the Board of Public Works. Currently, he is a senior fellow at UCLA’s Luskin School on Public Policy and has started his own consulting firm, Warren Furutani Consulting.

Other Asian American elected officials who have endorsed Tanaka include Walnut City Councilmember Eric Ching, Alhambra Mayor Stephen Sham, Hawaiian Gardens City Councilmember Michiko Oyama-Canada, Diamond Bar Mayor Jack Tanaka, Duarte City Councilmember Sam Kang, Rosemead Mayor Polly Low, and Temple City Councilmember Vincent Yu.

In Gardena, Tanaka’s supporters include Mayor Pro Tem Dan Medina, City Councilmember Tasha Cerda, former Mayor Ed Russ, former Councilmember Ron Ikejiri, and the Gardena Police Officers Association.

In addition to several current and former law enforcement officials in L.A. County, Tanaka has the backing of Sheriffs James Mele (Tuolumne County), Keith Royal (Nevada County), Bill Brown (Santa Barbara County), Gregory Ahern (Alameda County), Tom Allman (Mendocino County), and John Robertson (Napa County).

Also running in the June primary for L.A. County sheriff are retired Sheriff’s Cmdr. Bob Omsted, retired  Lt. Patrick Gomez, Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers, Assistant Sheriff James Hellmold, Long Beach Police Chief James McDonnell,  and LAPD Detective Lou Vince. Baca announced Jan. 7 that he will not seek re-election.

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