Battle Lines Drawn in 35th District Senate Race As Laura Richardson & Michelle Chambers Face Off

Elgin Nelson

The battle lines have been drawn as the race for the 35th District Senate seat heats up between candidates Laura Richardson and Michelle Chambers. Results from the primary race show just how close this contest is likely to be as former U.S. congresswoman Laura Richardson leads former Compton city councilmember by a margin of three percentage points. 

The two Senate hopefuls now look to a general election in November that will determine who succeeds Sen. Steven Bradford, who served for eight years and is reported to be eyeing a run for Lt. Governor. 

“What is very clear about this campaign is that there is a lot of bad blood between these two,” said one political insider. 

Richardson released the following statement after the certification of the votes:

“I am thrilled at the latest vote count and remain optimistic that our message will continue to resonate with voters. Voters are tired of the mudslinging and want to know how you can help them with living wage jobs, affordable housing, high cost of living, eliminating homelessness and the high cost of health care. However, we understand desperate campaigns do desperate things and I look forward to taking my positive message to the voters.”

Richardson, who served as the U.S. Representative for California’s 37th congressional district from 2007 to 2013, has been critical of Chambers political prowess and leadership skills. 

For its part, Chambers campaign has made one of its centerpieces Richardson’s so-called “record of shame” referring back to 2012, when Richardson was reprimanded by Congress on ethics violations for improperly using her official staff to conduct campaign work and personal errands during her bid for a fourth term and agreed to a fine of $10,000. 

In her defense, Richardson shared with L.A. Focus that she had immediately advised the ethics committee when she realized inappropriate activity had occurred. 

“If I had been found guilty, technically, that would have been a violation, those claims would have been a violation of the Hatch Act. And that is against the law, and I could have gone to jail.” 

Clearly, the 61-year-old former legislator and businesswoman would rather not talk about it, though when asked if she’d learned from past mistakes, Richardson vowed that nothing like that would ever happen again.

“Twelve years later, I’m not here to rehash that,” Richardson stated. “I’ve learned you need to make sure your office operates at the highest level of standards and to make sure that I carry myself as the ultimate person responsible.

“I believe in personal development–always continuing to be better. I wanted to better myself and change the way I employ other people. I’ve learned a lot, so I’m excited about some of the new ways that I would approach leadership differently,” added Richardson whose promise to 35th District residents is that they can trust her to run a fair campaign leading into November.

Like Richardson, Chambers is not without her challenges with supporters–some of whom felt abandoned when midway into her term, she abruptly resigned from her post on the Compton City Council after being elected in June of 2019.

“I’m not particularly sure why she left. The people I know were also very confused, so she has a long road ahead to win back the good folks that live here and want leadership, and most importantly, longevity,” said a Compton resident.

Chambers, in response, wanted to reassure the residents of Compton that she never intended to abandon them, but rather take a higher position where she felt she could be more effective.

“I would never leave my city,” Chambers explains. “I resigned to take a position as external affairs manager with the California Department of Justice, which afforded me the opportunity to serve my city on a state level. I wanted to continue to serve and provide them more access to resources that addressed such pressing issues as public safety, housing inequities, and hate crimes.”

Chambers, whose brother was famed actor Michael K. Williams, has over 25 years of public service experience, including serving with Assemblyman Mike Gipson’s office, as the Communications/Public Affairs representative for LA County Assessor Jeffrey Prang and as External Affairs Manager for the California Department of Justice and California Attorney General Rob Bonta. 

Outgoing State Senator Steve Bradford has endorsed Chambers, stating “I am proud to support Michelle Chambers for State Senate. Michelle is a true public servant. 

She has worked tirelessly at the federal, state, and local level of government serving the public and supporting the needs of the community. I am confident that Michelle possesses the knowledge, integrity, and commitment to get things done and will continue to provide the leadership that the residents of the 35th Senate District deserve and expect.”

The former external affairs manager to the California Attorney General also secured an endorsement from the U.S. Congresswoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove.

“As a former Compton City Councilmember and External Affairs Manager to the California Attorney General, Michelle Chambers has demonstrated her ability to enact changes that benefit our communities. Michelle is a leader who is committed to creating jobs and economic opportunities, protecting women, combating climate change, and standing up for working families. We need strong leaders in Sacramento and that’s why I am excited to endorse Michelle Chambers for State Senate.” 

Kamlager is among a cadre of Black women elected officials supporting Chambers that includes L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, Assemblywoman Tina McKinnor and Kellie Todd Griffin, president of the California Black Women Collective. 

The L.A. County Federation of Labor, the Southland’s largest labor union, has also thrown its support to Chambers. 

Richardson, too, has assembled an impressive list of supporters, including L.A. Mayor Karen Bass. 

“I’m proud to endorse Laura Richardson for State Senate. Laura has a long-standing commitment to public service, and I’ve seen her hard work firsthand when we served together in the Assembly,” Bass said. “I look forward to locking arms with her as we work to confront the homelessness crisis and make Los Angeles safer and more livable for all.” 

Compton Mayor Emma Sharif is also standing with Richardson.

“Laura is uniquely qualified for the position having worked in the private sector for a fortune 500 company as well as an elected official and currently running her own company providing housing throughout the district. I believe she is the most qualified and has the experience to deliver for Compton on day one.”

Attempting to move past their previous clashes, both candidates are now focusing their efforts on the campaign ahead, aiming to highlight the key issues they perceive as affecting the residents of the 35th District. 

Richardson, if elected, looks to address issues that include the emergence of AI and a sporadic housing market that may hurt the younger generation.

“This onslaught of automation and AI is attacking jobs, so when you look at what’s happening–our family members who worked in the post office, automation– AI is taking over many, many positions, you go to a carwash, there used to be three, four people there, and now it’s all automated.”

The former congresswoman also looks ahead at the next generation, which is struggling and suffering at the hands of a costly housing market that isn’t getting better.

“Frankly, it looks almost impossible to be able to become a homeowner, and to live the family way that many of us, unfortunately, through the hard work of our parents were able to achieve,” said Richardson.

“I’d like to see us adopt a Housing Trust Fund, that would be available, particularly for first time homebuyers, or people who are in serious need so we can bring this aging housing stock to a more safe environment, but it’s going to take a lot of work that I’m willing to spearhead.”

Chambers acknowledges what her opponent seeks to address but she believes that affordable housing directly impacts the lives of the district and should be addressed at the forefront.

“I’m going to wake up every day, addressing my own community members who are sleeping on the street, okay? If they’re sleeping on the street, and just sleeping in a car, and they’re couch surfing, they do not have their own roof over their head. Everyone deserves housing. Children, seniors, and our veterans deserve housing. Every day that I wake up and my feet hit the floor at home, those same community members will be my first priority.”

The former city councilwoman implores that government officials need to look at the per capita income ratios within this community and assess from there.

“I do not feel because we get a new Starbucks or a new Target number, rent should be up to $2,500. We need to provide more rental assistance, not only just for those who are unhealthy, but those who are working families who are living paycheck to paycheck every single day, who are one paycheck away from homelessness, we need resources and funding allocations to those who need a leg up.” 

While the two candidates both agree that tackling homelessness across the district is a top priority if elected into office, Richardson denounces the approach to how people address the unhoused community and states that the problem lies far more than the lack of a home.

“When you look at our unhoused community, though, a lot of the people who are unhoused it’s not because they don’t have access to a home, it’s due to mental health issues and drug addiction issues. With the recent passage of Prop. 1, that still isn’t going to be enough money to fix the problem because if you look back in the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan shut down many of our mental health facilities, I think we have to seriously look at treatment. And that care does not mean throwing someone in jail for 72 hours.”

Chambers believes there is a massive domino effect to the lack of success in preventing homelessness that has to do with mental health and substance abuse.

“Those two are my main priorities amongst others. I want to push a policy addressing mental health and substance abuse, that is the domino effect to homelessness. Those two run in tandem. For me, anything that keeps my residents, my community up at night, keeps me up at night. And those are issues that are being addressed in Sacramento. We have to come to a resolution to address this phenomenon.

Griffin, president of the California Black Women Collective, finds this political moment exciting as two candidates compete for legislative positions crucially awaiting Black women to fill them.

“We have Black women competing throughout the state for legislative seats. We can pick up 6 new seats. And it’s very exciting to see that we have Black Women vying for the 35th Senate District. Regardless of who wins, it will be the first time we have two Black Women in the state Senate from Los Angeles at the same time,” said Griffin. 

Share the Post:

Related Posts