Culver City’s Historical Election: A Look Back

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Alex Fisch and Daniel Lee at Daniel Lee’s election party on April 10th, 2018.

Not only did CC residents vote the first black city council member into office — Daniel Lee — but this year’s campaign season appears to have politicized a polarized community

Culver City history is set to be made on Monday,  April 30, 2018.

That evening, Culver City will hold a regular city council meeting that will be anything but “regular.” Current council members will be asked to adopt a resolution certifying the election results of April 10, 2018, and the City Clerk will administer the oath of office to our two newly elected council members, deputy state attorney Alex Fisch, and, the first African-American City Councilperson in Culver City’s 100 year history, activist Daniel Lee.

Culver City’s Great Divide
After five months of endorsements, candidate canvassing, editorializing, fundraising, citizen activism/agitprop and 14 candidate forums (most, if not all, streamed live on Culver City Live), the campaign season seemed long, tumultuous and grueling to the four city council candidates, as well as voters.

Who’s Who
The candidates were:

Marcus Tiggs — grew up in Leimert Park, attended the private school Le Lycée Francais, and graduated from Pepperdine University (Broadcasting and French), where he was in the ROTC/Army. He continued onto University of West Los Angeles Law School and became a bankruptcy lawyer.

Alex Fisch — grew up in Camarillo, graduate of University of California Berkeley and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Law School. He’s currently a deputy attorney general for the California State Attorney General. He’s been a resident of Culver City for 15 years.

Daniel Lee — grew up in Alabama and Florida, graduate of the University of Southern California (USC), was in the U.S. Air Force for six years, and then received a masters’ degree in Social Welfare from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He currently works as a Project Manager for the James Lawson Institute, which is dedicated to teaching the principles of nonviolent philosophy and practices. He’s lived in Culver City for 15 years.

Albert P. Vera — grew up in Culver City, but attended private Catholic schools, St. Augustine and St. Bernard’s. He owns Sorrento’s and other affiliated businesses and has property throughout Culver City, as well as 26 ranches (“thousands of acres”) in central California.

Declaration
By early February, all four announced their candidacy, vying for the two council spots to be vacated by Jeff Cooper and Jim Clarke. Whether a reflection of the temperature of the country, Culver City republicans rallied around Tiggs, who was endorsed by current councilperson Goran Erikkson, as well as lame ducks Cooper and Clarke (both of whom ran their initial bids for a council seat as progressives, but time and voting records would soon reveal Cooper and Clarke as considerably more conservative, an issue that rallied local progressives to actively push for the more left-leaning Fisch and Lee).

Civil Servants
Friction, outright conflict, and animosity in the community has been par-for-the-course in recent years, and this election was no exception. Yet the candidates themselves were the very model of civility. While arguments raged on social media, often devolving into name calling, candidates abstained from any comments which might be construed as negative or personal. As candidate Marcus Tiggs noted at the final candidate forum at the Exchange Club: “Listen to what we are saying here, and it’s pretty plain we agree on 80% of the issues. Rather than dig into the 20% where we all have very different ideas, let’s start with what is right in front of us, with those issues that are that 80% of what we need to do.”  While tempers flared around flyers from anonymous sources, urging neighbors not to vote for Chamber-endorsed candidates, candidates and their campaigns continued to knock on doors and make phone calls.  

Mic Drop
And then there were the candidate forums. CCUSD students at the Ask 2 Know candidate forum were both guileless and unflinching in their questioning of candidates. Candidate  Marcus Tiggs acknowledged that he had voted for Donald Trump and later in this same forum, two candidates (Tiggs and Albert Vera Jr.) both admitted that they knew little to nothing about the famous Citizens United decision (the landmark U.S. constitutional law, campaign finance and corporate law case dealing with regulation of political campaign spending by organizations.) At the Heart of LA Democratic Club forum (which featured all candidates but Tiggs), Vera, who received the clubs endorsement, suffering from a bad bout of an apparently active flu, had to leave the forum early.

Band Wagon
While the four candidates themselves conducted themselves with diplomacy, friction between advocates of the candidates often felt more like a pitched battle. Accusations, attributions, and admonishments were the rage amongst the social-media-busy supporters. Lines were drawn, posts were published, comments quickly appeared. What also appeared online was the preponderance of social media Facebook groups. Culver residents were no longer solely reliant on the Culver City (Unofficial) Facebook page, as other avenues of political discourse (and discord) erupted, including: Culver City Freeforall, Culver City Now, and the Wollin-run and founded-during the election as an alternative to those other FB groups, Culver City Republicans. The formed-earlier but less successful Culver City Republican Club has three likes and zero engagement, as does an anonymous Culver City FB page, which consists of mini accusatory rants, sympathy for Erikkson, and even the defamation of a long-dead, long-time CC educator (FTR, the author’s MIL).

Endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce,  after their February 23, 2018 forum, Albert Vera, Jr., Marcus Tiggs and their supporters felt they were better suited to deal with the coming financial challenges of pending pension obligations. Fisch and Lee, while acknowledging the coming budget challenges, also spoke to the need of addressing environmental and public health threats posed by the Inglewood oil fields, as well as affordable housing…stressing that they felt these issues have been largely neglected by said same business interests.

Central Casting — of Votes
While there was some controversy around polling locations changing, and voter-turnout concerns about how close the 3 April and 10 April 2018 elections were, voters came out in a big way.

The voters spoke, and with all ballots counted, 28.1% of the voters came to the polls, a recent record for the city!

The final results?

Alex Fisch – 4,020
Daniel Lee – 3,536
Albert Vera, Jr. – 3,264
Marcus Tiggs – 2,289

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