With the June 5 Primary election just days away, many Californians are preparing to cast a vote for one of 27 candidates for governor, 32 candidates for senator, five statewide propositions and district-specific candidates for the House of Representatives.
In Santa Monica’s District 33, there are three candidates vying for a seat in the House: incumbent Ted Lieu, human rights advocate Emory Rodgers and eye surgeon Kenneth Wright.
Emory Rodgers, a self-described “Berniecrat,” wants to use his political platform to push forth ideas of equality, human rights, and environmental protection. He is currently writing a Constitutional Amendment that he believes will effectively prevent elite government officials and corporations from being able to infringe upon the natural rights of all people.
“In the amendment, I’m defining a person as being of an organic source that breathes through lungs and bleeds through veins,’ thus eliminating corporate personhood,” said Rodgers. “It would be the first time in US history that a corporate leader could actually be incarcerated for life for sedition against human rights and against the Constitution and our democracy.”
A central idea of his platform is to remove the greed from government and encourage political activism amongst community members.
Competitor Kenneth Wright, the medical director of the Wright Foundation for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, is also critical of corruption in politics. He acknowledges his unfamiliarity with governing and lack of a political background as the very qualities that make him a competent candidate.
“I don’t do quid quo pro,” said Wright. “I am honestly doing this because I don’t like the way America is going with career politicians, both republicans and democrats. I call myself the new republican.”
As the conservative candidate in a district that is largely left-leaning, Wright wants to encourage voters to pay less attention to party affiliation and more instead to his solutions for the problems that face both the district and the nation. He believes that one of the biggest issues in District 33 is homelessness, and suggests that a long-term solution is the transformation of the abandoned Los Angeles County Hospital into a homeless shelter at which home-insecure people could be evaluated as individuals rather than a homogenous group.
While both Rodgers and Wright are hopeful for the opportunity to win the seat in the House, incumbent Congressman Lieu is determined to hold onto the position. Lieu, a democrat and previous US Air Force Reserve Colonel, said he is proud to support bipartisan legislation – he recently voted in favor of the conservative Right to Try Bill, allowing terminally ill patients to use forms of treatment not yet approved by the FDA.
He is also known to speak openly against the federal government, and express frequent condemnation of President Donald Trump in the media. Lieu maintains that part of his political responsibility is to speak out when he believes that something is unjust.
“I am going to point out false and misleading statements, and point out crazy things that happen at the White House,” said Lieu. “My view is, whether it’s eight crazy things or 800, we cannot normalize what shouldn’t be normalized.”
While many voters might view local elections with a sense of indifference, local political groups recognize them as major opportunities for progression within the region.
The League of Women’s Voters of Santa Monica, at almost 100 years of age, has historically used education and advocacy to push forth non-partisan ideas of civic engagement and voter participation.
Regional president Barbara Inastugu their work includes an online voter guide, informative Youtube channel and consistent programming on Santa Monica CityTV, strategies she identifies as encouraging activism amongst residents who might otherwise be uninvolved in politics.
“There is a large part of Santa Monica that is quite divided,” said Inatsugu. “We try to help educate and inform people about the variety of resources on either side of an argument so that they can explore and make decisions on their own.”
As for the June 5 primary, she advises people research not only the candidate’s talking points, but also their records, backgrounds and platforms. She notes that while incumbent Ted Lieu might have the lengthiest political background, all three individuals have qualifications that voters should take into account.
“Do your homework,” said Inatsugu. “Vote, because your vote is your voice, and if you don’t use it somebody else is going to be speaking for you.”