Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi with some of his supporters. From left: Elnie Vannatim, Mike Murase, Muratsuchi, Erich Nakano, Catherine Chuck, Alan Nishio. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)
Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi with some of his supporters. From left: Elnie Vannatim, Mike Murase, Muratsuchi, Erich Nakano, Catherine Chuck, Alan Nishio. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer

A reception supporting the re-election of Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) was held Oct. 28 at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Little Tokyo.

Muratsuchi, who was first elected two years ago, is in a tight race against Republican challenger David Hadley, with both sides putting out mailers on a daily basis and airing commercials on TV ahead of the Nov. 4 election. The campaigns have been trading accusations, with Hadley’s side calling Muratsuchi a “job killer” who is “clueless on how businesses create jobs” and “voted to raise our taxes,” and Muratsuchi’s side calling Hadley “just another Tea Party politician who will say or do anything to get elected.”

Gov. Jerry Brown and other Democratic leaders spoke at Muratsuchi’s campaign headquarters in Torrance earlier in the day and Hadley was recently endorsed by The Daily Breeze.

Henry Ota said that he and other reception co-chairs are “motivated to do all we could to make it possible for him to return to Sacramento … not just because he’s Japanese American … He’s one of the recognized political leaders in Sacramento, recognized by the governor … by the leadership of the Democratic Party … but also recognized, I think, by the people on the other side of the aisle, somebody who understands the issues and deals with the issues in a very positive way.”

Ota added, “This is not going to be an easy race. We need all your help … in any way we can encourage people that we know to get out and vote … That’s the name of the game. It doesn’t matter how much money you have; if you don’t get the votes, you don’t go to Sacramento.”

The other co-chairs were Catherine Chuck, Kerry Doi, Ernest Doizaki, Warren Furutani, Stephen Gee, Toshio “Terry” Handa, Thomas Iino, Bill Imada, Kenneth Inouye, Gary Kawaguchi, Alan Nishio, Kanji Sahara and Bill Watanabe.

Noting that he worked at the JACCC as JACL Pacific Southwest regional director almost 20 years ago, Muratsuchi said, “Little Tokyo and the Japanese American community will always be at the core of my heart, always the base … I represent not only the South Bay area of Los Angeles but also I feel like it’s my responsibility to represent the entire Japanese American community in the state of California …

“I was joined by [Assemblymember] Mariko Yamada from the Davis/Yolo County area of Northern California, but she’s been termed out this year … I will be the last Japanese American in the State Legislature. I know how important that is for our community. I’ve always talked about how redress was the inspiration for my getting involved in politics … the importance of having … a voice in our government at all levels.”

Looking back on the last two years, Muratsuchi said, “I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve been able to work across party lines to get things done [about] common-sense priorities, things that we should all be able to agree on … It was just four years ago that California was facing a budget deficit of over $40 billion. Now we have a balanced budget with a billion-dollar reserve … I was able to help achieve that without voting for a single tax increase.”

His proudest legislative accomplishments, he said, include “Assembly Bill 777, which provides tax incentives for aerospace manufacturing companies so that we can continue to grow the aerospace industry in the state of California and create good middle-class jobs. The other is a bill that streamlines bureaucratic regulations for businesses so that we can help out especially the small businesses that have to struggle with a lot of these regulations so that they can grow and create jobs.”

As chair of the Assembly budget committee that deals with education funding, “I helped deliver over $10 billion to restore funding for our schools, a lot of cuts that were made during the recession. K-12, community colleges, University of California, and Cal State University have all received increased restored funding in the last two years.”

Muratsuchi stated that his campaign is being targeted by outside groups, in particular wealthy GOP benefactor Charles Munger Jr. “He’s dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars in races throughout the state. Just in my Assembly race he’s poured in over $500,000 in expenditures to either support my opponent or … smear my name in these TV commercials …

“It’s frustrating. I’m really developing a thick skin as I’m going through the political process. I think we all know that politics is not for the weak-hearted, but what always keeps me going is that I believe … I’m fighting for the right things … starting with my experience as a student at Berkeley with the redress movement. It’s not only about politics; it’s fundamentally tied ultimately to serving my community, fighting for the right causes that [activist] Mike Murase’s been fighting for for so many decades.”

Pointing out that Election Day has already started because of absentee ballots, he described the next few days as “crunch time — this is when we’re shifting into the final and most critical stage of the campaign, which is called GOTV, get out the vote … We’re calling people, knocking on their doors, asking them, ‘Have you voted yet? Please make sure that you vote on Nov. 4’ … Every single vote is going to count …

“Many of us appreciate all the sacrifices, from the civil rights movement to our veterans who served in the 442nd to generations of Issei and Nisei who struggled to get us to where we are today. People have literally fought for and sacrificed their lives for our right to vote.”

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