Editorial: Tina McKinnor for Assembly

Tina McKinnor
Tina McKinnor is running to replace Autumn Burke in the state assembly.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

This is an endorsement we wish we didn’t have to write. Half a million Angelenos have been without representation in the state Assembly since Autumn Burke abruptly resigned on Feb. 1 and joined an influential Sacramento government affairs firm founded by the lobbyist who famously dined with Gov. Gavin Newsom at the French Laundry in 2020 despite pandemic restrictions.

Politicians who quit before their terms are up leave voters on the hook for costly, confusing special elections. Burke’s resignation, however, also creates an opportunity: Voters can now replace a moderate Democrat with a slightly more progressive one, Tina Simone McKinnor.

McKinnor, a longtime political activist and campaign manager with deep roots in Los Angeles, is the best of four Democrats running in the special election to fill the remainder of Burke’s term for the 62nd Assembly District, which includes Venice, Westchester, Inglewood, Hawthorne and Lawndale. We urge voters to support her in the April 5 special election. If none of the four receives a majority of the votes, there will be a runoff on June 7, the same day the primary election is held for the next full term. (Because of redistricting, the June 7 election for the full term is in the 61st Assembly District, which includes most of the same communities. Confusing? Yes.)

Now a civic engagement director with the L.A. Voice advocacy group, McKinnor pushed for important legislation creating a system to decertify police officers for misconduct and attempting to change the Proposition 13 property tax law to increase funding for schools and other public services. She understands the need for California to address homelessness by getting much more aggressive about building more affordable housing. She also wants to help the natural environment by incentivizing people to use public transit and to replace lawns with drought-tolerant landscapes. Furthermore, McKinnor knows how the sausage is made in Sacramento, having worked for two members of the Legislature, including Burke.


While there have been other eras of great turnover in the state Senate and Assembly, the change now underway is being led by lawmakers who are voluntarily stepping down — with a surprising number of them choosing to do so in the middle of their current term.

Feb. 11, 2022

McKinnor says she is more liberal than Burke, who often voted with moderate Democrats to block progressive environmental bills. Burke did not support legislation mandating health and safety buffer zones around oil and gas wells and refineries, which stalled in 2020, nor did she vote for a bill to strengthen California’s goal of reaching carbon neutrality, which stalled last year. She helped kill legislation meant to cut down on plastic waste by online vendors.

McKinnor has been endorsed by Supervisor Holly Mitchell, state Sen. Steve Bradford, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters and City Councilmember Mike Bonin, as well as the California Legislative Black Caucus and Equality California, an LGBTQ civil rights group.

Burke has endorsed Robert Pullen-Miles, who has worked in her district office for several years and is also the mayor of Lawndale. He won the endorsement of the California Democratic Party. But we have concerns about his dedication to solving the state’s housing and homeless crises. His city signed a letter opposing critical legislation that will spur more housing construction in California by allowing duplexes in neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes, and he supported Lawndale’s efforts to block a local hotel from being used to house homeless people during the pandemic through Project Roomkey, though the lawsuit was eventually withdrawn.

Having worked for four state lawmakers representing South Bay communities, Pullen-Miles has familiarity with the region and experience with the legislative process that would serve him well in office. But we believe McKinnor’s understanding of policy, support of bold housing action and breadth of experience make her the better choice.

The other two candidates in this race — Hawthorne City Councilmember Angie Reyes English and Venice neighborhood councilmember Nico Ruderman — have shown dedication to their communities, and we commend their service. At this point, however, neither of them has enough knowledge of state policy to be effective in Sacramento.

This special election matters because whoever wins — whether in April or in June — will be in office to cast votes during the critical final months of the legislative year, when the most controversial bills are decided. Of the four candidates, McKinnor is most likely to be prepared and to support the critical legislation to address the state and the district’s biggest challenges.