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Are local Democrats too extreme for San Pedro and the 15th Council District?

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By now the news has spread about the 20-point victory of LAPD officer & local community leader Joe Buscaino over State Legislator & “true-Democrat” Warren Furitani last Tuesday night to replace Janice Hahn, who was elected to the United States Congress in July 2011. Buscaino, also a Democrat, came under heavy fire from the left-most extremist of his own party for “ignoring Democratic organizations”, according to the United Democrats of the South Bay and the Democratic Action Center.

The Democratic organizations throughout the harbor area and the South Bay are upset that City Councilmember-elect Buscaino did not do enough pandering to their special interests; instead choosing to rally those he had worked with throughout the harbor district over his 30+ years of community service and public safety. While most of the Democratic establishment was handicapping Buscaino to finish anywhere from 3rd to 5th place, he was busy building a coalition of leaders that transcended partisan politics and focused on morals, community values and truly knowing the residents of the 15th Council District of Los Angeles. Because Buscaino included many non-liberal members in his coalition, including myself, and did not step aside when the Los Angeles County Democratic Party predictably endorsed career politician Warren Furitani, he was heavily attacked because he, …(oh my goodness)…used to be a Republican!

“It’s something we think Democratic voters should know,” Richard Vonn said at a press conference following a candidate forum last week. “This is a strongly Democratic district and we want to make sure that every Democrat knows that there is one strong Democrat that has the unanimous vote of the Democratic Party and that there’s another Democrat running that used to be a Republican.” (Side note: San Pedro Democratic Club President David Greene has repeatedly told audiences that he used to be a Republican as well. Guess it’s a good thing he dropped out of the race…and endorsed Buscaino. So much for the unanimous vote.)

Buscaino’s victory party on Tuesday night included a who’s-who of city leaders, mostly Democrats, including City Council President Herb Wesson, former City Council President Eric Garcetti, City Controller Wendy Greuel, and six other current city council members from the City of Los Angeles. As an attendee of this party, I was amazed to see the wide spectrum of support for Joe Buscaino. It did not matter how supporters were on various issues throughout the city, as well as the state and nation; our common belief and trust in Joe Buscaino’s ability to get to the heart of city issues and vote in the best interests of the entire harbor community was a uniting quality that I have not seen any politician possess in recent history. I believe many incumbent Democrats in Los Angeles saw this after the November 8th primary (especially those running for their next office in less than 14 months), and understand the need to learn how to harness the kind of grassroots energy that Buscaino will likely have on his side for his re-election campaign in the same election.

The defeat of the candidate supported by the “unanimous vote of the Democratic Party” highlights a growing problem within the ranks of the left-wing extremist movement: while voter registration may still be skewed heavily Democratic in the 15th District, the performance record of endorsed candidates and measures in recent years highlights a growing issue for the LADCP – in non-partisan elections, which mostly occur during non-traditional voting days, the 15th District overwhelmingly votes for the moderate/conservative option over the liberal one. Examples include this district’s supporting the “non-partisan” Republican in the last two LA Community College General Elections, the district’s support for the city’s March 2011 “accountability” ballot measures, and in May 2009, despite an extensive campaign, nearly 70% of the district rejecting the Democratic Party’s Propositions 1A through 1E tax hikes. The numbers in the 15th District for these propositions were actually more “conservative” than the statewide results.

So as the left-wing activists controlling the local Democratic Party and its extremist allies like the local Organizing for America chapter and the Random Lengths newspaper try to comprehend why their chosen candidate was rejected by over 60% of harbor area voters, I would like to remind Democratic voters throughout the harbor area of two important facts:

  1. There are generally two types of Democrats, as well as two types of Republicans. For the Democrats, there are JFK Democrats, and what can best be described as Pelosi-Kucinich Democrats. My experience is that an overwhelming majority of non-activist Democrats favor JFK and the pro-business, pro-Catholic, and pro-America policies of “asking what you can do for your country” over what our local extremist-activists preach. (BTW – Most Republicans are either Rockefeller Republicans or Reagan Republicans – topic for another day)
  2. While the activists in the Democratic Party continue to demonize and belittle many who transfer into their party, like City Councilmember-elect Buscaino and even Arianna Huffington, because they are not perfect “womb-to-tomb” Democrats, former Democrats who see the benefits of freedom, independence, business-friendly practices and American exceptionalism are fully welcomed into the GOP, and are encouraged to run for office. Look no further than President Ronald Reagan, who watched the Democratic Party he once stood for abandon the principles of JFK and, hence, lose his support as well. His famous words: “I did not leave the Democratic Party; they left me!”

(Texas Governor Rick Perry, who now governs the fastest business-growing state in the union and until recently was another Presidential candidate, is another.)

Democrats throughout the 15th Council District should be wondering the same thing: Has the Democratic Party that once fought for the little man and for quality education become simply the party of entitlements and partisan extremism? There is a lot of work to do in the harbor area, from reviving Ports O’Call to helping community organizations to bring crime down. None of these will get accomplished with a significant subset of the community alienating others for not being litmus-test Democrats or proposing ideas 100% in alignment with their pre-determined policies.

When it comes to helping our communities and standing up for neighbors and small businesses, we should be proud of those who show us how to put away our political membership cards and work together. I believe this is one of the messages of the Buscaino election – it’s time to respect everyone’s political background and experience in order to bring back jobs and businesses to the 15th Council District.

Thank you, Councilmember-elect Joe Buscaino, for inspiring those who want to be more than simply Democrat or Republican. I look forward to working with all those who want to improve our community, our schools and our neighborhoods.

No litmus test required.

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