Several major seats are up for grabs.
At the end of January, Compton politics got a jolt when two-term incumbent Mayor Aja Brown decided to not run for a third term in this Spring election (ballots must be postmarked by June 1). Though surprising to many, Aja Brown signaled her desire to move on from Compton’s City Hall in 2018 when she launched a short-lived run for the 44th Congressional District seat.
When initially elected in 2013, she beat out another former Mayor of Compton, Omar Bradley, who, at that time, had been recently released from prison on a technicality stemming from a corruption conviction for “taking cash advances for city business expenses and then charging the items to his city credit card.” Bradley has remained a popular figure with many Compton residents. He was so popular, he ran against Brown again in 2017, and again lost to her in a run-off.
This election cycle is very different. One reason for that difference is this is the City’s first election with all mail-in ballots. Of Compton’s nearly 100,000 residents, more than 49,000 are registered to vote, yet only 7,719 votes were cast in April. That’s a 15.7% voter turnout rate. This number has not changed much from before the switch to all mail-in ballots. Those voters in April whittled down a pool of 10 Mayoral candidates to just two.
This is where I pause to mention how contentious and vitriolic Compton politics can be. As a Compton resident, it is not uncommon to receive mailers, emails, text messages, and phone calls disparaging one candidate or another for issues outside of their politics, and it’s often difficult to wade through all of the candidates. Oftentimes, residents are unaware of current elections, let alone who is running for what. Though the city does provide debates and forums for candidates to speak, many residents are unaware who the candidates are and what they’re running on. This cycle was no different.
One more note about Compton elections: all but two elected offices will be voted in this year. Two races in April did not lead to a run-off: City Clerk and City Attorney. Two City Council (Districts 1 and 4) terms end in two years. Unlike the past Mayoral election cycles, there was no incumbent in the race. Even when Brown won in 2013, she and Bradley beat out the then incumbent Eric Perrodin. The candidates who received the most primary votes were Cristian Reynaga and sitting Councilwoman of District 4, Emma Sharif.
Reynaga is a long time resident, and if elected, he will serve as the first Latinx Mayor in the City’s 133 year history, even though more than 60% of Compton’s residents have identified as “Hispanic” for at least the past two Census reports. Reynaga is running on a platform of “Love & Unity,” according to his website. Though he has never held public office, he is associated with the late City Council Member Dr. Willie Jones. Reynaga was also endorsed by Aja Brown.
Emma Sharif is a long time political figure in Compton. She was appointed to the Compton Unified School District Board of Trustees in 2001, then she successfully ran for Trustee of CUSD Board of Directors two years later. In 2015, she won a seat on the Compton’s City Council by beating out the aforementioned Dr. Willie Jones. Her website casts her as the person with experience. Her list of endorsements is a “Who’s Who” of Compton politics.
There are two open City Council seats on the ballot: District 2 and District 3.
The District 2 City Council member is currently Isaac Galvan. He won his seat in 2013, running alongside Aja Brown. He was the first Latino elected to Compton’s City Council in what was the logical outcome Compton’s Measure B (2012) that changed Compton’s Council voting from an “at-large” voting system where registered voters can vote all of four council districts, even if the voter lived in a different district, to a “by-district” voting system which limited voting to only those in that district. Measure B was a long fought victory of Latinx residents and voting right advocates looking to boost Latino participation in Compton’s government. Since 2013, he and Aja Brown have been in opposition, with Brown suggesting Galvan illegally formed a voting block with two other city council members: former City Councilmember Janna Zurita and the sitting Tana McCoy, in violation of the Brown Act. The FBI raided the Councilmember’s home this past November.
Galvan’s challenger is Andre “HubCityDre” Spicer. Spicer is a well known lifelong Compton resident. He may be most known for The Hub Radio, which its website says “is an internet based radio station with a vision to ‘bring people together for the better.’”
Tana McCoy is the sitting District 3 City Councilmember. According to the City’s website, she was unanimously appointed by the Mayor and City Councilmembers in 2016 when six-term City Councilmember Yvonne Arceneaux retired. Arceneaux had held the seat since 1993. McCoy is currently being challenged by Jonathan Bowers, a Captain with Los Angeles County Fire Department, and lifelong Compton resident who’s running on making City Hall more transparent and responsive to its residents. He’s also looking to address the needs of Compton’s unhoused residents.
The final race is for City Treasurer. Since 1973, Compton’s Treasurer’s Office has only had two occupants, Douglass Sanders and his father, Wesley Sanders, but that is set to change come June 1 because Douglass Sanders finished third in the April primary behind former city employee Brandon Mims and current Vice President of the Compton Unified School District Governing Board of Trustees Satra Zurita, respectfully.
Mims is new to politics, but not to city finances. He began working as Community Development Specialist in 2008 and finished as a Deputy City Controller in 2017. He’s campaigning on making the city’s finances more accessible to its residents by pledging to hold monthly town hall meetings in which the Treasurer’s Office presents a City Investment Report to the residents as well as address any questions and concerns residents may have. He’s been endorsed by the soon to be former treasurer as well as Yvonne Arceneaux, to name a few.
Satra Zurita has deep roots in the City of Compton. Her website states he’s a third generation Comptonite. Her sister, the aforementioned Janna Zurita, was a two-term City Councilmember until she lost re-election in 2019 to now Councilmember Michelle Chambers after being seen flipping off a resident during a city council meeting. According to her website, Zurita pledges “as your City Treasurer, I’ll implement commonsense [sic] reforms to protect our tax dollars and ensure your money is never embezzled again. I’d be honored to earn your vote.”
Again, voters must have their ballots postmarked by June 1.
Aaron Dowell was born in Compton and lives there currently. For full transparency, he has previously worked on materials for the Mims and Bowers campaigns.