Compton voters have ushered in a new guard by electing political newcomer Aja Brown as mayor over controversial former city leader Omar Bradley, and appearing to send the first Latino representative to the City Council.
Initial results showed Brown, a 31-year-old USC-educated urban planner, beating Bradley, a former two-term mayor, by 4,143 votes to his 2,360.
Bradley and Brown went to Tuesday’s runoff after defeating current Mayor Eric Perrodin and a crowded field of challengers, including former child actor Rodney Allen Rippy, in April’s primary.
Bradley’s attempted political comeback was hampered by baggage from his past and continuing legal troubles. After losing office in 2001 to Perrodin, Bradley was convicted in 2004 of misappropriating about $7,500 in public funds. An appeals court reversed the conviction last year but left the door open for prosecutors to retry him, which they have been preparing to do.
Although Bradley retained a core base of committed supporters who believed that he had been unfairly targeted, Brown rallied younger voters and residents who saw Bradley as part of a long-standing culture of corruption and nepotism at City Hall.
Brown supporters gathered at La Quinta Real Restaurant on Compton Boulevard blew noisemakers and shouted, “Happy New Year! Happy New Compton!” as the results came in Tuesday night.
“I believe the people of Compton are ready for change,” Brown said. “They’ve spoken. Their voice has clearly been heard that they don’t want to go backward. They want to go forward.”
Shannon Phillips, 44, met Brown through their church, Faith Inspirational Missionary Baptist Church, where Brown and her husband lead a youth group. Phillips, a lifelong Compton resident, said she believes that Brown will be able to help the city’s youth after seeing how she had been able to reach Phillips’ own teenage son.
“She’s going to be the best thing to happen to Compton,” Phillips said. “We’ve had a lot of disappointments. I think she’s going to be the one to make change.”
Bradley often stole the spotlight during the months leading up to Tuesday’s election. Even a pulmonary embolism two weeks before election day did not slow him down: He showed up to a debate hours after checking out of the hospital against his doctor’s advice, following surgery to unclog his arteries.
He was noticeably absent from City Hall on election night as the votes were counted live in front of residents, but conceded the race early Wednesday.
Bradley said in an interview that he wished Brown well — although he continued to allege, as he had during the campaign, that Brown’s candidacy was part of a plot by Los Angeles County to take over Compton and that the media was biased toward his opponent.
“Nothing negative was said about her in the press,” he said. “Everything that could’ve been said negative about me has been said.”
In the City Council race on Tuesday’s ballot, another newcomer in Compton politics, 26-year-old Isaac Galvan, was leading longtime Councilwoman Lillie Dobson by about 200 votes. If that result stands, Galvan would become the first Latino and the youngest person ever elected in the city.
Compton’s population is now about two-thirds Latino, but Latinos are a minority of eligible voters. No Latino has ever won elected office in the city.
This year’s election was the first conducted under new council districts that resulted from a voting rights lawsuit. In the district where Galvan and Dobson competed, the majority of eligible voters are Latino.
Roberto Carrillo, 59, has lived in Compton for 27 years and twice ran unsuccessfully for City Council, once in 2001 and once in this year’s primary.
“I saw in the election today, it was so hopeful for the Latino community,” Carrillo said. “Now it’s going to be very different because we have one voice” on the four-member council.
Galvan promised Tuesday night to work with the whole community.
“I didn’t win because I’m Latino. I won because I’m the best candidate,” he said.
Dobson could not be reached for comment.
Despite having never held office before, Galvan had the backing of some familiar names in Southeast Los Angeles County politics, including members of the Central Basin Municipal Water District and Water Replenishment District President Albert Robles, who was recently elected to the Carson City Council.