California Assembly Race Debate Casts Light on Candidates

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by LA1 News Desk

   From the outside courtyard at Ramona Hall last night, if one listened just carefully enough, massive applause could almost be heard as the Assembly District 51 runoff candidates were announced inside. The massive applause was not for candidates Wendy Carrillo and Luis Lopez, of course, although a healthy crowd did show up. It was coming the other way from Dodger Stadium where everybody else was paying attention. It was the first game of the World Series after all, making the candidate debate seem like an afterthought. The Dodgers had just come up three to one on Turner's home run when the introductions concluded.

   LA Weekly writer Hillel Aron announced the rules. Two-minute answers followed by one-minute rebuttals. Since Carrillo received the most votes in the primary election, he went to her first, asking Carrillo why voters should care about this election when only about 10% voted in the last. "I think there are too many elections," Carrillo stated, citing the large numbers of voting pamphlets bombarding households. Carrillo said that 30% of households in "East LA" are at or below 30% of the poverty rate. She then asked how lawmakers and constituents can make reforms to Proposition 13 "so that corporations and companies pay their fair share of the taxes."

   Next, Aron asked Lopez what he thought about the fact that Los Angeles holds the record of having the most people killed by police officers than any other city in the United States. "I would first like to ask where you got this statistic," Lopez responded. Hillel admitted he was referencing a story title from a news article published in The Guardian, a news website headquartered in Great Britain. Lopez went on to say that he was concerned with the stress put on our police officers, especially those "suffering from PTSD." While announcing a need to study the police statistic further, Lopez said "I think that's a tragic statistic."

   Carrillo was asked by Aron what separates her from her opponent when he stresses that he has more experience. "Everyone has the reality of a lived experience," Carrillo said, "regardless of any Democratic club." Carrillo stood firmly by her endorsement from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), stating she is proud to have worked with them. Lopez stressed his experience as a founding member of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council and his prior experience with the Los Angeles Community Colleges. He said he has experience in the three important factors of "schools, streets and infrastructure."

   The candidates were asked about healthcare next. Carrillo mentioned her endorsement from State Senator Ricardo Lara and her early experience with the Affordable Care Act. She once helped run a Covered California kiosk at the Crenshaw Mall. Lopez stressed the importance of keeping the Affordable Care Act together and the possibility of a single-payer healthcare system for California.

   The candidates were asked whether loosening regulation is the answer to the housing crunch issue in Los Angeles. "I don't think we can broadly say we should loosen regulation," Carrillo said. She stressed a "multi-tier" approach to the issue with federal, county and city governments all taking part. "I spoke with Hilda Solis, who endorsed me," Carrillo said. She stated that the two agree on the need to identify government plots to sell for housing use and the need for the government to purchase new lots for the same reason.

   Lopez said the housing issue was a matter of supply. "Too many people that want to live in our beautiful weather," he added. Lopez stressed his prior experience on the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council's Land Use Committee and stated the need to retain local input on construction projects. He also stressed the need to make sure locals have a say in design, scale, and "sight lines" on new projects. "Yes, increase [home building]," he said, "but we need to maintain local control."

   During the rebuttal on housing, Carrillo said she once paid $980 per month at Avenue 58 for an apartment that now rents for $2,000. She said there is an influx of new residents and business owners who do not always invite the local community to their establishments and their events. Lopez said in his rebuttal that he and others have done great things at Echo Park Lake, and that great things will continue to be done. "We need to create opportunity for people to remain here," Lopez said.

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