By BRENDA REES
HIGHLAND PARK — While the Dodgers and Astros were slugging it out at the heat-infused Game One of the World Series on Tuesday night, 51st Assembly District candidates Wendy Carrillo and Luis Lopez tried to score points in the first of a series of debates before the Dec. 5 runoff election.
The crowd of about 100 Angelenos listened attentively in Ramona Hall as the candidates discussed their views on health care, the housing crisis, gentrification, excessive force used by the LAPD, sexual harassment and environmental issues.
Except for one sharp exchange, the debate, sponsored by the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council and moderated by LA Weekly political reporter Hillel Aron, was a polite one. The answers were safe responses that often included the phrase “a need for more conversation,” and “it’s a complex issue.”
Both candidates seemed to agree on the easy topics: more women are needed in positions of power in not only politics but all organizational levels, the current health care system is “certainly not perfect” but there is a need to preserve and improve it, solutions to affordable housing require creative thinking and that charter schools are now part of the public education and are a force to be reckoned with.
The two candidates – who both grew up on Los Angeles’ Northeast side – noted upfront their backgrounds which offered listeners some differential context. Lopez highlighted his 15 years working on various community committees and organizations, such as serving as the former president of the East Los Angeles Area Planning Commission and former chair of the City Regional Prop K Commission.
Carrillo, a former journalist and a labor leader with SEIU, said she believes “the reality of a lived experience,” which reflects the democratic philosophy that everyone no matter their background is welcomed into the political arena.
The only time sparks flew in the debate was when each candidate was asked to present a question to the other. Carrillo asked Lopez if he would pledge to “run a clean and honest campaign.” “I intend to have a debate on the issues and I pledge to be honest,” he responded.
For his part, Lopez asked Carrillo if she would join him by not accepting campaign donations outside of the district, including from large corporate entities.
Carrillo responded that PACs often draw upon different resources for broader issues; such as helping to get women get elected into political offices. “Don’t make this into a bigger issue than it is,” she sharply told Lopez.
Carrillo and Lopez will meet again in a debate on November 15 at Sotomayor Learning Campus.
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