LOS ANGELES — Four women will battle for the 44th Congressional District seat in the June 5 primary election.
Incumbent Nanette Diaz Barragan, who surprised many by winning the seat two years ago, will face Compton Mayor Aja Brown, actress-turned-political commentator Stacey Dash and Long Beach businesswoman Jasmina Saavedra.
Dash and Saavedra are Republicans and Barragan and Brown are Democrats but in the state’s election system, the top two vote-getters in the June primary will face off in the November general election, unless someone receives more than 50 percent of the vote in June.
Barragan was a largely unknown Hermosa Beach City Council member two years ago when she surprised then-state Sen. Isadore Hall in the November general election.
Hall was the favorite to succeed Janice Hahn, who gave up the congressional seat to run for the county Board of Supervisors. He received 42 percent of the vote in the primary election, about twice the vote total Barragan received.
But Barragan turned things around between June and November and received 52 percent of the vote on election day.
She isn’t planning on being a one-term congresswoman, either, but she has some tough opposition. Brown was 31 when she became the youngest elected mayor in Compton history five years. She easily won re-election last year.
She announced her decision to run for Congress March 8.
“The people of the 44th District deserve to be represented by someone who lives, serves and exhibits genuine love for our community, families and children,” Brown wrote in “A Message from Aja” on her website, joinajabrown.com. “I am running for Congress to be the voice and vote for the people who are striving everyday to feed and raise their families. This campaign is about real people coming together for real progress in our communities.”
She said she was running against Barragan because the congresswoman has not been accessible her first term in office.
“Any leader has to be able to build coalitions and it has been difficult to connect with the current congresswoman,” Brown said by phone March 14. “We haven’t had that; at least from my community’s point of view.
“I truly believe in the pit of my soul that it has to be a calling to serve your community. There is a system in place that if you’re not a part of the political ‘gangs’ as I call them, then you’re labeled as an outsider. We’ll I’m OK with that.”
In an email, Barragan said it has been an honor to serve in Congress and cited the challenges ahead of her.
“It has been a great honor to represent this California district in Congress and I am asking the people in our community to support me once again,” she said. “We are facing great challenges here at home and an awful president in the White House who has kept our communities and our values under constant assault.
“In the short amount of time since my election, I have been working hard to make our airports safer, to create a path to citizenship for all of our veterans, and to help lead the way on congressional hearings into allegations of sexual misconduct in the national security community.”
The race drew the attention of the TMZ website when Dash announced her candidacy.
Dash is best known for her role in the 1995 film, “Clueless.” She burst on the political scene in 2012 when she endorsed Mitt Romney for president on her Twitter feed.
The endorsement drew the attention of executives at Fox News, who hired her to offer “cultural analysis and commentary.” Since then she has made a name for herself by taking controversial stances regarding people of color.
“We are being lulled into complacency, to accept mediocrity and a plantation mentality while our neighborhoods deteriorate, drugs and disease continue to spread and education erodes in the shadow of violence,” Dash said on her Twitter account @REALStaceyDash. “We need to rise up. Together. Change the paradigm.”
Saavedra is the least known of the four candidates. She is a founding member of the Latinas for Trump political group.
“I don’t live in the district but I have friends that live there and I don’t believe Congresswoman Barragan is representing the community,” Saavaera said. “I understand that the district is over 70 percent Hispanic and although I’m not a career politician, I want to surrender myself to the people from my heart, as a mother, as a daughter, as a grand mother and as an American.”
The 44th Congressional District extends from South Gate, Lynwood and Compton in the north to North Long Beach, Watts and San Pedro and includes the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. It is an overwhelmingly Democratic district.