Ridley-Thomas to run for supervisor against Parks

Times Staff Writer

Setting the stage for an expensive race between two well-known political figures, state Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas announced Wednesday that he would run for the 2nd District seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors against City Councilman Bernard C. Parks.

Ridley-Thomas, a Democratic lawmaker from Los Angeles, filed papers of intention to run that allow him to begin raising funds.

He expects to raise $1.5 million for the contest to succeed Yvonne B. Burke, who has announced that she will not be standing for reelection in the June 2008 election.

Ridley-Thomas said voters would have a clear choice between very different candidates.


“I have a very strong work ethic and great familiarity with the needs of the residents of the 2nd District, where I was born and raised,” said Ridley-Thomas, 52, who lives in Leimert Park.

Finishing up his fifth year in the Legislature, Ridley-Thomas previously served for 12 years on the Los Angeles City Council, representing the 8th Council District, which encompasses much of the areas of South Los Angeles that Parks currently represents.

“It’s going to be one heck of a race,” said Kerman Maddox, a political consultant who has worked for Parks in the past but is not representing either candidate this time. “You have two leading African American politicians. It’s going to divide neighborhoods. It’s going to divide communities. It’s going to divide church congregations. It’s going to be hard-fought, and it’s going to be personal.”

Parks referred calls to John Shallman, his political advisor.


Shallman called Ridley-Thomas a “career politician” while saying Parks had spent most of his years in law enforcement, including a stint as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, “on the front lines, making the city safer.”

Ridley-Thomas said he had a “breadth of experience” and a record of public service.

Elected to the Senate in November after four years in the Assembly, Ridley-Thomas is chairman of the Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development, and has been active in trying to bring new business to South Los Angeles.

He has been an advocate for healthcare reform and has been highly critical of the county board’s handling of the closure of Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Medical Center.


Burke has not yet endorsed a candidate in the race.

Before winning election to the City Council, Ridley-Thomas served for a decade as executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles.

He also taught high school for five years.

Ridley-Thomas earned a bachelor’s degree in social relations and a master’s degree in religious studies from Immaculate Heart College.


He received his doctorate in social ethics and policy analysis from USC.