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Tina McKinnor: Progressive in Tuesday, April 5 Special Election

Voters from Venice to Inglewood and Lawndale will choose a new California state assemblymember.

Portrait of California Assembly District 62 candidate Tina McKinnor
California Assembly District 62 candidate Tina McKinnor. (Photo credit: Tina McKinnor)

When California’s 62nd District assemblymember, Autumn Burke, abruptly resigned from her post on February 1, 2022, some of the most diverse neighborhoods in Los Angeles suddenly had an opportunity to elect a new legislator to represent them.

Burke’s departure triggered a special election for the remainder of her term that will cost voters upwards of $2 million. According to a statement from Burke, she left the post to work for a consulting company run by Jason Kinney, who dined with Gavin Newsom at the French Laundry at the height of COVID-19 restrictions in 2020.

The district primarily includes the neighborhoods of Inglewood, Venice, Westchester, Marina Del Rey, El Segundo, Hawthorne, and Lawndale. The final day to vote in this special election will be this Tuesday, April 5, 2022, with an additional runoff election on June 7, 2022 if no candidate receives the majority of votes.

Four candidates are running, including Tina McKinnor, a longtime activist and native Angeleno, Robert Pullen-Miles, the mayor of Lawndale, Angie Reyes English, a Hawthorne city councilmember, and Nick Ruderman, a member of the Venice Neighborhood Council.

Every candidate running is a Democrat. McKinnor is a progressive: she supports a single-payer healthcare system, stronger tenant and eviction protections, and decreasing the number of people who are incarcerated, while opposing neighborhood oil drilling and efforts to criminalize homelessness.

Knock LA‘s parent organization, Ground Game LA, as well as the LA Times Editorial Board, Planned Parenthood, and the LA County Federation of Labor are among the groups backing McKinnor. Several politicians have also endorsed her, including LA County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, LA City Councilmember Mike Bonin, and Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

McKinnor began her career as a clerk for the LA County Department of Public Social Services. She served in Burke’s office as a program manager, then as her chief of staff for several years. McKinnor was the first Black person to serve as the operational director for the California Democratic Party. McKinnor also helped elect District Attorney George Gascón and Mitchell in 2020.

“I’m the only candidate [in the race] that has ever worked in the legislature,” McKinnor said. “I’m the only person with experience running my own business, experience with the unions, and experience with the legislature.”

McKinnor sees herself as a grassroots candidate who has built a campaign on honest promises and clear-eyed ambition for change. Her campaign has vowed not to take donations from the pharmaceutical industry, the fossil fuels industry, and private prisons. Among her priorities are housing, reproductive rights, healthcare, and police reforms.

McKinnor currently is the civic engagement director for LA Voice, which describes itself as “a multi-racial, multi-faith community organization that awakens people to their own power, training them to speak, act, and work together to transform our County into one that reflects the dignity of all people.”

LA Voice specializes in what McKinnor calls faith-based housing, which uses land owned by around 60 churches and congregations across California to provide much-needed affordable housing and other critical resources. In Inglewood, where the average price of a house has soared to over $700,000, the average income is around $20,000.

“Faith-based housing means that we have congregations across the state that would like to build housing on their property,” McKinnor said. “Congregations already own their land, attendance has gone down with COVID, which hurts the church, so they’re offering up their land to build more affordable housing.”

SB 899, which would have streamlined affordable housing projects on land owned by churches or nonprofit colleges, passed the California State Senate in June 2020, but failed to advance in the Assembly. An analysis by UC Berkeley found that nearly 40,000 acres of land in California are used for religious purposes, with a large amount of that being in Los Angeles and San Diego counties. Local zoning laws often put large parking lots and otherwise unused land on church properties, which faith-based housing advocates say is ripe for use by those in need.

“Some of them have preschools there, you have kitchens to feed folks, clothing, and also therapy,” McKinnor said. “We think this would be a great way to provide low-income and affordable housing.”

In 2021, McKinnor advocated for SB 2, a bill that gave California the power to decertify police officers for misconduct, and expanded the list of actions that can cause a police officer to lose their badge. The bill was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in September with several amendments that significantly watered down the decertification process.

“[SB 2] calls bad actors to the table and holds them accountable,” McKinnor said. “If I’m an accountant, I can’t screw up other people’s money and stay certified. If you’re an attorney, you can’t break the law and continue to practice.”

Although McKinnor supported SB 2 and advocates for law enforcement reforms, she disagrees with the blanket idea of taking away law enforcement.

“I don’t want to defund the police, I don’t want to do any of that stuff,” McKinnor said, a departure from the positions of progressive groups who endorse her. “I want police to be held accountable.”

McKinnor is full of ideas beyond campaign promises, spilling them out as she speaks. She’s passionate about the issues, and about LA.

“We have to take care of our neighbors, we have to treat people like humans,” McKinnor said. “Those are the things I’d like to go and take care of.”

Knock LA is a journalism project paid for by Ground Game LA. This article was not authorized or paid for by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.