From left: Former Assembly Speaker John Perez, former Assemblymember Warren Furutani, Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi and Assemblymember Das Williams pose with one of Muratsuchi’s surfboards at his campaign headquarters in Torrance. (Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

Rafu Staff Writer

Current and former Asian American/Pacific Islander elected officials from around the state showed their support for Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) at his campaign headquarters on Sunday as volunteers prepared for an afternoon of precinct walking.

Muratsuchi, who represents the 66th Assembly District, is running for a second term in the Nov. 4 election. His Republican challenger is small businessman David Hadley.

Assemblymember Das Williams (D-Carpinteria), chair of the California Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, said that Muratsuchi “has been a recognized leader in the AAPI community long before he was elected to the California State Assembly. He continues this tradition of advocating for this growing community by carrying and supporting legislation to improve our education system, to strengthen California’s economy, and to help new immigrant communities achieve the American Dream.”

Warren Furutani, a Democrat who represented South Los Angeles County in the Assembly and chaired the API Legislative Caucus, said that although Hadley’s campaign signs can be seen on street corners throughout the district, “the signs we’re concerned about are in the front yard of somebody’s home, people they can talk to at the door.”

Young members of Team Muratsuchi at campaign headquarters. Upper left: Elena Santamaria; upper right: Yong Eo; lower right: Samantha Seng; lower left: Lianna Mecano.

Noting that the district is being targeted by the Republicans in an effort to prevent the Democrats from regaining a two-thirds supermajority in the Legislature, Furutani said, “Not only is it critical to win this to keep the two-thirds, but it’s critical because we need to keep Al. Al has brought to the table an ability to get elected in a moderate district with progressive politics … He’s done that by being right on the environment, he’s done that by being right on human rights — Democratic Party issues that we know are cornerstone issues.”

Assemblymember John Perez (D-Los Angeles), former speaker of the Assembly, commented, “It is not only one of the most important races in the state; to me, it is one of the more personally important … It’s about getting somebody to come back to Sacramento who’s led in a way that is purposeful, who has figured out a way to be an absolute champion for education, a great steward of our environment, a great protector of our public safety.

“When he first ran, we talked about his diversity of skills and experiences he had as a school board member, a prosecutor, an environmental activist, things that really lined up so well with his district … It was a real insight into what he was going to be as a legislator. Now, two years later, you look at the work that he’s done … to move forward career technical education, something that Warren was a champion of … ways to maximize the life opportunities for everybody …

“What he’s done as the chair of the Budget Subcommittee on Education, making sure that we prioritize reinvesting in education … Every single school district across the state of California will get more money than it did before … What he did to make sure that we grow the aerospace industry back to the way it was in California by realigning the way we prioritize our tax policy. On issue after issue, Al has been one of the most thoughtful, dedicated, unassuming legislators.”

Alluding to a Hadley mailer that says Muratsuchi’s legislation “would expose our kids to sexual predator teachers,” Perez said, “As a career prosecutor, as a school board member, there was nothing more important than both the education that our kids received and the safety of our kids … He put together a bipartisan approach to be able to get rid of child predators and people who are a threat to our kids in school, and streamline the process by which we can get rid of the bad actors.

“Instead of celebrating Al for doing that, the way that a bipartisan, unanimous group of legislators in both houses and the governor did, the way newspapers up and down the state did in supporting and endorsing this legislation, his opponent is trying to misrepresent it as saying he’s weak.”

Perez acknowledged, “This is going to be a tough year. Non-presidential years are always tough, but especially when the president is of your party and it’s the last two years for him to be in office … The governor’s race — quite frankly, there hasn’t been much of a race yet, so there aren’t these other forces to get people out to vote. The margin of victory is … our ability to beat apathy.”

State Controller John Chiang, a Democrat running for state treasurer, recalled California’s recent financial crisis, which necessitated a 32 percent increase in tuition at UC campuses. He told the young people in the audience, “You have the highest unemployment in the history of the United States of America since the Great Depression when we talk about teenage students last year at 34 percent; college students, highest unemployment since the Great Depression; recent college graduates, not at Depression levels but still pretty high.

Assembly candidate Evan Low (left) and State Controller John Chiang.

“Al has brought … real common-sense approaches to economic generation and job creation for the state of California … using our STEM [science, technology, engineering, math] knowledge that we have to promote in local schools and career vocational education … We need somebody who’s a thoughtful problem-solver.”

Chiang told the volunteers, “Share your story and how your story is their story. In this low-turnout race, share your dreams about access to college, about affordable housing, about the income divide, about job creation, about a world-class education … about Al’s leadership and what he can do for your future.”

Evan Low, a city councilmember and former mayor of Campbell (Santa Clara County) and the Democratic candidate in the 28th Assembly District, took time out from his own campaign to attend. “Al’s race is very important. That’s why we’re here to make sure that all throughout the state we can support Al,” he said.

Muratsuchi thanked his supporters and said, “The API effort today is so important to me personally because that’s how I got my start in politics. I started in politics as a Berkeley student activist … not just API politics but in the Third World Student Coalition … That’s how I got my inspiration. I’m a product of ethnic studies at Berkeley … this vision that California is great because of the diversity that we represent here in this room.”

Stating that he is “fighting for my political life,” Muratsuchi noted, “In the primary … I went head-to-head against my Republican challenger, no other Democrats to split the vote, no other Republicans to split the vote, and I finished more than 500 votes behind my Republican challenger … a bona fide Tea Party, Wall Street investment banker.”

Muratsuchi said in an interview, “Our polling looks good, but it all comes down to the turnout. No one can predict who’s actually going to vote on Nov 4, so that’s why each and every vote is so important … Gov. Brown is looking so strong in the governor’s race that we’re concerned that people are just going to stay home. But there’s so much that’s important on this ballot, not just who their state assemblymember is going to be, but also we have elections … for Congress, an election for our new state senator … our other constitutional officers.

“We have important ballot initiatives making sure that we strengthen the ‘rainy day’ fund so that we can avoid the boom-and-bust cycles that we’ve experienced with our state budget. We want to make sure that we pass our water bond, which is going to address the drought crisis.”

Since the district — which includes Gardena, Harbor City, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Torrance and the Palos Verdes Peninsula — has more than 460,000 residents, many of whom are not registered to vote, Muratsuchi and his precinct walkers are targeting regular voters rather than going door to door.

His message to voters of both parties: “I’ve been working across party lines to get things done, to fight for common-sense priorities like jobs, good schools, safe neighborhoods and a clean and healthy environment.”

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