Burke Enters Campaign to Replace Hahn on Board


Yvonne Brathwaite Burke on Tuesday formally kicked off her campaign for the Board of Supervisors, setting up a showdown with state Sen. Diane Watson over the seat held by retiring Supervisor Kenneth Hahn.

Burke, a former assemblywoman, congresswoman and Los Angeles county supervisor, was joined by more than 100 supporters in front of the county Hall of Administration as she announced she will seek the 2nd District seat.

She said she decided to run because she is concerned that county government is “no longer adequately using its power and influence for the public good.

“Rather than stand by and throw stones, I have decided that I have an individual responsibility to do what I can to change things,” said Burke, 58.


Although Compton City Treasurer Wesley Sanders Jr. and several others are considering a run for the seat, many believe the race will be between Burke and Watson (D-Los Angeles), two pioneering black women in Los Angeles politics.

But Burke downplayed the anticipated battle with Watson, who was the first black woman elected to the Los Angeles school board in 1975 and to the state Senate in 1979.

“I’m not going to run against Diane Watson,” Burke said. “I’m running as Yvonne Brathwaite Burke.”

Watson responded in like fashion Tuesday night. “I am not running against anyone,” she said in a statement. " . . . I am looking forward to a positive and uplifting campaign.”


An attorney and member of the University of California Board of Regents, Burke became the first black woman elected to the state Assembly in 1966. In 1972, she became the first black woman elected to Congress from California.

When James Hayes retired from the Board of Supervisors in 1979, then-Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. appointed Burke to the 4th District seat.

However, when she sought election the following year, Burke was defeated by current board member Deane Dana.

Hahn, who is stepping down next year after four decades on the board, has not decided whom to support in the upcoming race but is reportedly leaning toward Burke, county insiders said.


Hahn’s chief deputy, Mas Fukai, was at Burke’s news conference, lending support in his capacity as a member of the Gardena City Council.

Burke is married to Los Angeles businessman William A. Burke, who heads the annual staging of the Los Angeles Marathon.