*Election night in the 8th District in Los Angeles served as an opportunity to send a message to a politician who has lost his respect for constituents and of his constituents. At least half of them. Regardless of what post election-day after spin is put on it, the 8th District ended up being the race nobody thought it would be, and everybody hoped for.
From the opening count, when Bernard had 54% of the absentee ballot votes and only a 650 vote advantage, it was clear it was going to be a long night. That was the highest vote percent he had all night. And it was downhill from there. With every report (except one), and I must say…the city of Los Angeles must hold the record for the slowest vote counting in the state, Parks lost ground. All night until nearly 2 a.m. when all the precincts were counted. Parks ended up at 50.89% to Forescee Hogan Rowles 43.99%. Parks got 140 votes over 50%.
With between 1,800 and 3,000 provisional and absentee votes left to be counted, the city registrar has declared NO WINNER in the 8th as of yet…so it ain’t over. What is over, is the debate as to whether this was just a union tantrum, or whether the people were really revolted, being dissatisfied with its representation. Clearly, half the district was. Probably even more, and the final vote will reflect that. But Parks in his continued arrogance, declared victory and scheduled a press conference.
We have just two words for Parks, STEVE COOLEY. Obviously, Parks, in his short term memory loss, doesn’t remember his Republican law enforcement buddy did the same thing. Declared victory, cancelled his press conference and ended up losing on the provisional vote count…so understand the race is not over yet and maybe this is a good sign, God’s way to drawing out Parks agony and continue to make him sweat. Forescee sure did and half the voters of the 8th District did. No incumbent wants a run-off. Incumbents generally lose run-offs.
In all of the hyperbole coming out of the Parks camp, let’s not lose sight of what happened here. Here is an eight year incumbent, with the city’s highest name recognition (and highest paycheck) because of his tenure as police chief, facing two much lesser known candidates. A race that was considered “a given,” so much so that many who wanted Parks out, wouldn’t take the gamble. Including the Mayor, who wanted him out worse than anybody but wouldn’t put up his political capital to get at him. If it was the other way around, Parks would have definitely got at him. That’s what Parks did to Mayor James Hahn, used his political capital as a retired police chief to pull Hahn’s support down in the community and create the opening for Villaraigosa. But with that said…he still might have the chance. But do you think the Mayor would have been able to influence two percent of the vote in the 8th district, with Latinos. I think so. Yet I digress…this race scared off more folk than it brought to the table, but half of us didn’t run and it was this half that took a tired politician, who had 78% in 2003, 100% in 2007, down to 50% of the vote in a six week campaign. That’s unheard of.
It was the short window that scared off most. They thought she wasn’t strong enough to get him in six weeks. That’s yet to be seen, but Forescee Hogan Rowles pushed Bernard Parks to the limit, from one end of the district to the other. Or as Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz would say it, she pushed him from “the windows to wall, to sweat ran down his [email protected]…” That’s how hard she ran him. If it was a 50 story building, Parks would hanging over the balcony right now, and he surely can’t like the view. Conventional wisdom said that the run-off was the best that could be hoped for, with three more months to get him and she’s right there. So she didn’t embarrass herself. The same couldn’t be said for Parks who had to lie and trick the voters just to get to 50%, including sending two mailers in the last week of the campaign that had 15 dead “alleged” endorsers and two dozen community leaders that had renounced their support.
And all his whining about “special interest” trying to put him out of office, is just that…whining. Parks went after unions endorsements and didn’t get them. Protected work and collective bargaining is how he got his job, his living and his pension. “These people” as he likes to call them are residents of the 8th district. His special interests were not. He would not have gotten to 50% had he not had independent expenditure campaigns donating billboards, sending mailers and making robocalls. So let’s stop the snivilin’. It took a million dollars to overcome his name I.D., like it took Barack Obama $100 million dollars to overcome Hilary Clinton’s name I.D. That’s the game, so stop crying. But Bernie Parks still wanna make it about him. And in a way, it was…but not like he thinks.
Here’s what Tuesday’s election was really about; Half the district clearly said NO to Bernie Parks, the other half didn’t know the other two candidates well enough to risk it. But had they had more time…that’s what we’ll find out when all the votes are counted.
In the meantime, we all know what time it is. Well, at least half of us do…and the other just might have another three months to figure it out. But the message is clear and we all left Forescee’s campaign office laughing at Bernie Parks last words to me, “It’s gonna be like it was last time.” Nope, not hardly…as we wait for the final results.
Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum (www.urbanissuesforum.com) and author of the upcoming book, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21st Century Popular Culture. He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com or on Twitter at @dranthonysamad.