Editor's note: This story appeared in Capitol Weekly on June 11. Weve reprinted it now after Bradford's victory in the special election in AD 51, to replace now Sen Curren Price, D-Inglewood. With all precincts reporting, Bradford had 52 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a November run-off.
Don’t call him the Al Gore of Gardena.
In 2006, a Gardena city councilman Steve Bradford came out of nowhere to take favorite Curren Price down to the wire in what proved to be the closest legislative primary race of the year. That race, to replace Jerome Horton in the Inglewood-area 51st Assembly district, came down to a mere 112 votes.
Like Gore, Bradford called in the lawyers and demanded a recount. Like Gore, he eventually relented.
“There were lawyers involved, yes there were,” Bradford said during a recent interview at Chops. “At some point it was becoming cost-prohibitive, so I just said ‘Hey, lets pull the plug on it.’”
Unlike Gore, Bradford is now getting a second chance—not to mention a fundraiser with Price and several other heavyweights in LA politics. This list includes Assembly speaker Karen Bass, and former Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally, D-Los Angeles. Price won the Senate seat formely heldby Thomas in a May 19 special election.
That Bradford had the money to run a serious campaign, let alone hire lawyers after the fact, helped put him on the political map. Bradford, now 49, became Gardena’s first African-American city councilman in 1997. But the city had always played second-fiddle in the 51st district to Inglewood, a nearby LA suburb more than twice Gardena’s size. Inglewood had been the political proving ground of not only Price and Horton, but also Ed Vincent, who held the seat from 1997-2000, and every other Assembly member from the 51st going back to the 1980s.
Bradford raised $378,000 for his 2006 race, though Price still outraised him. Ultimately, the race was decided by a three percent margin, and not certified until three weeks after the vote had taken place.
Unlike Bush and Gore, Bradford and Price both say they have been friends for years. Both have backgrounds in technology and business. Bradford spent seven years in the 1980s working for IBM. For the last dozen, he’s worked as public affairs manager for Southern California Edison. Over the past several years, both he and Price have been bouncing around political circles and Democratic clubs in the Los Angeles area.
Bradford is now serving his fourth, non-consecutive term as mayor pro tem of Gardena. He said much of his Assembly campaign will focus on the city’s financial performance since he’s been in office. During that time, he said, the city’s debt has dropped by over a quarter, without any tax increases, service cuts or city employee layoffs.
“Twelve years ago, when I was elected, Gardena had a $6 million deficit, no money in the bank, my employees hadn’t had raises in over five years, and we were on the verge of bankruptcy,” Bradford said. “Today, we have $8.5 million cash in the bank, and our employees have received five raises in that period of time.”
It’s not like he’ll be the only Democrat in the race, however. Fellow councilman Robert Pullen-Miles has been rumored to be exploring a run. So has Gloria Gray, a member of the West Basin Municipal Water District Board with ties to Ridley-Thomas. Both, like Bradford, are African-American and have opened commitees support. Another possible candidate is Latina—Inglewood councilman Eloy Morales.
But with his endorsements, Bradford appears to have the early momentum. If elected, Bradford says other areas he is likely to focus on include health care and the environment. Both, he said, have strong class and racial aspects in his district.
Greater Los Angeles, he notes, has been losing hospitals at a dizzying rate. Martin Luther King Hospital, Robert F. Kennedy Hospital and Daniel Freeman Hospital, all in our near the 51st, have all closed since 2004.
“Everyone talks about coverage, but you also have to have access, so you gotta have those facilities,” Bradford said.
His background in the technology industry, he said, helped lead him to the environmental cause, because he knows the background of how much environmental damage the technology industry has caused in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. In 1990, he left IBM to work as a program director for the Los Angeles Conservation Corps for four years. After that, he directed the city of Compton’s recycling and solid waste programs for two years.
One of his goals if elected, he said, would be to get more money to clean for environmental cleanup, particularly in El Segundo. This type of work, he said, is important for economic development.
“We’ve had a lot of brown fields in the fifty-first district, and that’s from the contamination from fifty-sixty years ago when people weren’t as environmentally conscious and were dropping a whole lot of stuff in the ground,” Bradford said. “It was an industrial area, you had a lot of their old space and a lot of the sub-contractors had their own space. Some brown field money to help us do some clean ups in those areas so we can develop those pockets that have been left barren for the last fifty years. It’s key.”