L.A. Now

Special election to decide L.A.-area Assembly seat

SACRAMENTO — The musical chairs in California's Legislature continues when voters in a Los Angeles-area Assembly district go to the polls Tuesday in a special election to fill a vacant seat.

One of the three candidates in the contest — all Democrats — is Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, who is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his father, Mark Ridley-Thomas, who served in the Legislature before being elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

The other candidates are former Culver City Mayor Christopher R. Armenta and John Jake, a real estate broker who is president of the Olympic Park Neighborhood Council.

One of them will fill a post left empty by former Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, who won a special election to the state Senate in September.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said he made calls to enlist support and attended fundraisers to help bring in cash for his son. Reports filed with the state show that the younger Ridley-Thomas has collected more than $600,000, eclipsing the $71,000 brought in by Armenta and $7,000 raised by Jake.

Sebastian Ridley-Thomas has also lined up key endorsements, including the California Democratic Party, Gov. Jerry Brown, Mitchell and Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price.

Armenta, an accountant, is supported by the five members of the Culver City Council and Los Angeles Councilman Bernard C. Parks, among others. Jake said his most important endorsements are from his wife and daughter.

The candidates agree on priorities for the district, which include improving education and economic development in a diverse area encompassing Westwood, West Los Angeles, Culver City, Baldwin Hills, Century City, Crenshaw, Leimert Park, Mid-City, Ladera Heights and a sliver of Inglewood.

Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, 26, says his qualifications for the job include his experience working in the complaint mediation unit for the state Department of Consumer Affairs and working for Price for 41/2 years. Most of his employment by Price was as a legislative aide when Price was a state senator.

He called for more investment of healthcare money in the district's community clinic network and mental health system, as well as more attention to repairs to Los Angeles and Culver City schools. Ridley-Thomas also said there are billions of unused state bond funds that could help improve transportation systems in the district and provide jobs.

"What I hope to bring to the people of the 54th District is that understanding of how the bureaucracy works and the ability to get things done in a tangible way," Ridley-Thomas said.

Armenta, 49, said his 10 years as an elected official and his work as an accountant prepared him for success in the Assembly.

"My service in public office, combined with my work experience, provides me with the insight and skills necessary to ensure our state dollars are properly accounted for and spent in a fiscally responsible way," he said in a statement.

Armenta's priorities include providing incentives to expand manufacturing jobs in California, requiring state contracts to prohibit outsourcing of jobs, increasing school funding and providing more vocational and technical training in schools.

Jake, 47, said his role as head of a city neighborhood council representing 20,000 households has given him experience he can use in the Assembly.

"I am most definitely qualified for this position, because I am currently governing a part of the city of Los Angeles right now," Jake said.

His goals include helping to promote the expansion of mom-and-pop businesses, finding funding to rebuild the district's streets and securing additional state money to provide more teachers with smaller classes.

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