Result’s from Tuesday’s 54th Assembly District special election continued to be counted on Wednesday, with Democratic candidate Isaac Bryan taking a huge initial lead.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Bryan currently has just over 17,000 votes, or 49.6% of the vote. The next closest candidate, fellow Democrat Heather Hutt, only drew 8,743 votes, or 24.5%. Only one other candidate, Democrat Cheryl Turner, currently has over 10%. According to the Secretary of State’s office, a special runoff election will be held July 20th should no candidate get above a 50% total in the Special election. With Isaac less than a percentage point away and votes still being tallied for the next 8 days while more mail-in, provisional, and other ballots come, Isaac may pull off an ultimate victory and be sworn in at the end of the month.
If Bryan is elected, the Assembly would gain a member very close to the racial justice movement in California. Bryan, who has earned a Master’s Degree in Public Policy Analysis, became the founding director of the UCLA Black Policy Project after graduation. He also became the Director of Public Policy for the UCLA Ralph J. Bunche Center, a position that gave him city appointments such as co-chairing the Los Angeles Unified School District Task Force on School Policing, serving in in Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Office of Reentry and CENTCOM Unit, and becoming Senior Advisor to Assemblywoman and now Senator Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles).
Kamlager herself had actually spurred the Assembly special election in March by being elected to the Senate in a special election to replace former Senator Holly Mitchell. As Bryan had been on her staff, Kamlager helped elevate him into a candidate in the district. However, while many expected Bryan to be a shoe-in, stiff competition from Hutt, a former Southern California district director for then U.S. Senator and current Vice President Kamala Harris, quickly made the special election into a bona fide race. While Bryan was endorsed by many local and state level leaders, as well as many critical unions, Hutt struck back by getting just as many. Funding was a similar battle, with Bryan raising and spending $450,000, with Hutt coming in a close second with $400,000.
A large lead for Bryan in the 54th
Racial justice, as well as policing issues, affordable housing, and homelessness, were major issues in the race, with many voting for Bryan or Hutt based on their stances or track record on dealing with those issues in their respective capacities as advisor or director. However, for some in the 54th district, which comprises of 21.6% of Los Angeles, Culver City, Ladera Heights, and a small part of Inglewood, the election on Tuesday was little more than choosing the candidate with the best political ties.
“They all gave messages of bringing us justice, or economic justice, or making things right, but it all felt so hollow as the main candidates have already been so politically compromised,” noted Marquis Jackson, a Los Angeles canvasser leader who specializes in targeting communities with high church-going percentages. “There’s Bryan, who, despite being seen on the front lines for equality, is really closely tied to a lot of lawmakers in the area, especially black caucus members from Southern California. Look at the top of the Black Policy Project website if you don’t believe me.”
“It’s really insulated. When Mitchell left, she specifically said Kamlager should succeed her, and she was elected in. Now here is Bryan, who is on Kamlager’s staff, getting the same treatment instead of new blood going in in the district. It’s almost like a new type of machine going on.”
“And then there is Hutt. She’s kind of outside that insider-group, but she is still closely tied with another, Harris’s. So it was really only a decision of which juiced-in candidate they wanted in. That’s where we are with the 54th.”
Should no candidate get more than 50% of the vote, the runoff election between the top two candidates will be held on July 2oth.