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Labor Leader Enters Race For State Senate Seat

Labor leader Maria Elena Durazo has announced her candidacy for the state Senate seat held by President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, who cannot run for re-election in 2018 because of term limits.

“I am, in every way, a daughter of California,” Durazo said in a two-minute, 30-second video released last Thursday on her campaign’s website.

“I am not asking you to send me to Sacramento. I am asking you to come with me to the state Capitol because I believe more in the power of people coming together than I do in the power of government.”

The 24th Senate District stretches from Koreatown and Hollywood in the west, south to Arlington Heights, north to Eagle Rock and east to East Los Angeles. It also includes Chinatown, Silver Lake, Echo Park, Boyle Heights, Glassell Park and Highland Park.

Maria Elena Durazo at a rally. (EGP Photo Archive) [1]

Maria Elena Durazo at a rally. (EGP Photo Archive)

Although nearly 60 percent of voters are registered as Democrats, 27 percent list no party affiliation and just under 9 percent are registered Republican.

Durazo, the first candidate to officially throw her hat into the ring, enters the race with strong name recognition and organizing credentials from her days as a local labor leader.

From 2006 to 2014, she was head of the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor that represents over 800,000 union members. While with the county labor federation, Durazo was one of the most influential figures in local politics, earning a reputation as a tough as nails advocate for union workers and as a civil rights leader.

Under her leadership, the county labor federation won approval for a “living wage” ordinance requiring some large hotels in Los Angeles to pay workers up to $15.37 an hour. The labor group successfully argued that hotels near Los Angeles International Airport-LAX were financially benefitting from business generated by the city-owned airport, and therefore the city’s living wage requirements for businesses with city contracts should also apply to the hotels.

To the surprise of many, she left the county labor federation in 2014 to become general vice president of immigration, civil rights and diversity for the UNITE HERE International Union, which represents more than 270,000 hospitality workers in the United States and Canada.

In February, Durazo was re-elected as a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, a position she has held since 2013. The 24th Senate District race will be her run for political office after years of backing other Democrats for office.

The daughter of immigrant farmworkers from Mexico, Durazo worked in the fields before becoming a union organizer. She said she never wanted to run for office and for years successfully resisted the urging by others to do so.

Last Thursday, Durazo credited the election of Pres. Trump for her decision to run, telling the L.A. Times, “things are changing in this country; obviously the Trump administration is doing things I consider very bad.”

Durazo is also board member of LA 2024, the group seeking to bring the 2024 Olympics to Los Angeles.

Information from City News Service used in this report.