First published in the Oct. 29 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
Voters in South Glendale are voting for a separate state Assembly candidate this year, following a redistricting process that split the city into two districts for the first time in living memory.
Wendy Carrillo, an incumbent who was first elected in 2017, and Mia Livas Porter, a volunteer and activist, are both contending for what is now Assembly District 52, which ranges from South Glendale through East Los Angeles and the City Terrace area. The two women, both progressive Democrats, emerged from the June primary election, with Carrillo netting 49.21% of the vote and Porter receiving 38.74%.
Voters will decide the victor in the Nov. 8 election.
Carrillo, who lives in El Sereno, was first elected in a 2017 special election, and then reelected in 2018 and 2020. Her family immigrated here as refugees when she was 5 as they fled the Salvadoran Civil War. As her family was undocumented at the time, Carrillo said her political awakening came when she was in high school, when the anti-immigrant Proposition 187 entered the fray.
“I knew then, at 14 years old, how Prop 187 would have impacted me and my family, so I’ve always been politically engaged as a young activist,” she explained in a recent interview.
Porter, the daughter of Filipino immigrants, said she was inspired by the work her parents — he a doctor and she a nurse — did for the community, especially for those too impoverished to be able to afford care. Her first experience with activism was joining Moms Demand Change, a decision motivated by her brother’s suicide by gun years prior.
“I hid it for 25 years, and when I joined Moms, that’s when they empowered me to share my story and how I could demand change,” Porter said. “I saw how sharing my story not only helped other survivors come forward, but it inspired others to come off the sidelines to do something.”
The candidates have spent this year introducing themselves to Glendale residents and the business community.
Porter, who has for years raised her children in Elysian Valley, said it has been natural to campaign in the Jewel City. Most residents she has spoken with have said the lack of stronger rent control and the state of infrastructure in South Glendale are the biggest issues for them.
“Living in this area, Glendale has always been a part of where I’m raising my kids,” Porter said. “My life has already been intertwined with Glendale and I was already familiar with it.”
Carrillo, as an incumbent in a district that won’t actually include Glendale until after the election, cannot yet spend official time in the city. However, she has been finding off-time during evenings and weekends to campaign in Glendale. Through all of the widely different concerns that come from different Glendale neighborhoods, Carrillo said she’s been able to find something to link everyone.
“I think that it’s quite similar to the Latino community on the east side,” she said of South Glendale. “Multigenerational, multilingual, multiethnic. It’s a common thread.”
As progressive Democrats, both candidates are in many ways cut from the same cloth as far as issues and advocacy go. Still, some differences in philosophies and approaches exist, and the two Democrats highlighted what they perceived as advantages over their opponents.
Porter derided her opponent for accepting “special interest money” that ran counter to her rhetoric on developing more sustainable energy resources, preserving the environment and expanding health care access.
“For me, it all comes to the money,” she said. “How can you truly be a champion for health care for all when you take hundreds in insurance money? How can you be a champion for the environment when you take hundreds if not thousands from the fossil fuel industry? In Sacramento, I’ll be accountable to the people of AD 52 and my voice won’t be compromised.”
Conversely, Carrillo contended she has always advocated for working families, small businesses and immigrants, and said that working in politics is a difficult art because of having to balance what all interest groups demand.
“I’ve been able to build coalitions among already existing elected officials to bring resources back to the communities. I feel like a lot of folks call themselves progressive, but they haven’t done the work. Going to a rally isn’t the same as dedicating your life and your mission to helping families,” she said. “I’ve been in the trenches for far longer than I’ve been in office, and I have proven results. It’s easy to throw rocks. It’s a lot harder to coalesce and ultimately deliver.”