Bellflower man serves as Napolitano campaign manager

BELLFLOWERKevin Wen’s fascination with politics began a few years ago when he innocently signed up as an unpaid intern. His job: help out on Kevin Faulconer’s campaign for mayor of San Diego.

Wen, a Bellflower resident who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, was looking for something fulfilling to do after finishing college and getting together with friends for a while to run a start-up clothing company. He had heard through fraternity brothers that Faulconer was looking for good, young help.

He applied and helped Faulconer win the election,

Wen, 24, is now the campaign manager for Steve Napolitano’s bid for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors’ Fourth District seat in the Nov. 8 election.

“I wanted to make a difference,” said Wen about working in politics. “I realized it was something I really loved to do.”

As campaign manager, Wen helped Napolitano finish in second place in the June 7 primary to gain a spot on the November ballot against U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro. Napolitano received about 37 percent of the vote to 43 percent for Hahn. A third candidate, Whittier Union school board member Ralph Pacheco, received about 16 percent of the vote.

Wen said he believes in the principles of limited government, lower taxes and fiscal responsibility.

He said he learned to appreciate those values by way of his experience as a Chinese immigrant. He came to the United States with his parents when he was 3.

When his parents divorced while he was in grade school, he learned about low-income living and the hard work that’s needed to move ahead socioeconomically. He later learned when his father, an architect, was dying of cancer, to get serious about schooling and making a career for himself.

“I didn’t want my family experience to dictate my future and how I treat other people,” said Wen, who remembers how proud the family always felt about coming to the U.S. and earning citizenship. “I use it for motivation, to keep going and to pursue the American dream every day.”

Wen has worked on several successful Republican races for the state Assembly and Senate, city councils and local ballot measures.

He has managed hundreds of campaign workers and has always made sure they reflected a mix of races, ethnicities, sexual orientation, ideologies and political parties. He has also brought in independents, veterans and disabled people, the spokesperson said.

“You couldn’t get a better melting pot of people than those I have in my campaign groups — the on-ground teams, volunteers and interns,” Wen said.

Napolitano learned of Wren’s talents and hired him help to run a campaign in the cosmopolitan Fourth District, a crescent-shaped territory that extends from Diamond Bar through Long Beach to Marina del Rey and west to Catalina Island.

Napolitano, who is running to replace Supervisor Don Knabe, who will leave office because of term limits, previously served as mayor and city councilman in Manhattan Beach and currently serves as a senior deputy to Knabe.

Wen and his teams have visited many households around the district. He said he is absolutely convinced that voters, especially undecided ones, value the personal touch and interaction when a campaign makes the extra effort to have a representative go out and knock on doors.

Billboards, mailers and TV commercials can only go so far, he said.

“In my experience, that’s what makes the difference,” said Wen about creating dialogues with residents and working to earn their votes. “Because they’ll remember at the polls that someone tried talking to them, someone wanted to get to know them. And because at a local level of politics such as this, every vote truly does count.”


Black political contractors say Democrats ‘take us for granted’

While Democrats scramble to secure the African-American community’s support post-Obama, black contractors complain that they are not getting their fair share of the party’s campaign spending.

Among $514 million that Democrats spent on political consultants during the 2010 and 2012 election cycles, only $8.7 million (just 1.7 percent) went to minorities, according to a June 2014 study by Democratic minority advocacy firm PowerPAC+. Seventeen companies, among 287 approved consulting firms, were minority-owned — or just 5.9 percent.

The report fueled existing anxiety within the African-American community over whether Democrats truly have black people’s best interests at heart. Although 56 percent of blacks thought the party had become more representative of minorities in recent years, 35 percent disagreed, as a Kaiser Family Foundation/CNN survey discovered last November.

“Democrats are wasting millions of dollars chasing after white swing voters instead of investing the money in engaging communities of color,” said Steve Phillips, founder and chairman of PowerPAC+. The company could partner with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Phillips said. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee already has made reforms based on the study.

America’s population is 13.2-percent black, according to 2014 Census Bureau estimates, but African-American voters are expected to play an outsized role in November’s elections. Eighty percent of black voters are Democrats. Only 11 percent are Republicans.

Some consulting firms repeatedly prosper. Event Transportation Associates, the go-to transit service for the past two Democratic conventions, seems poised to thrive again this year and partner with diverse local vendors.

The company, which did not reply to repeated requests for comment, last month announced its preparations for the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Janie Hollingsworth, the company’s CEO and majority owner, co-chaired the 2012 convention’s transportation subcommittee, according to her LinkedIn profile. Hollingsworth also provided logistical expertise for Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia last year.

The Democratic National Convention Committee declined comment on the company or Hollingsworth, citing sensitive contract negotiations. The committee instead offered a statement by its CEO, the Rev. Leah Daughtry.

“It is an article of faith for us that we ought to allow the people who move our party forward to be able to be beneficiaries of the party’s resources,” Daughtry said.

But Vectour Transportation Group, a 2012 convention contractor, lost its bid to return.

“Things did not go exactly how we would have liked for them to go this year,” said Reggie Halsam, the black-owned company’s CEO.

Internal Democratic National Committee statistics show that in 2015, women composed 48 percent of its staff, and nearly 36 percent of its employees were minorities. Also, 23 percent of contracts and 25 percent of total dollars spent that year went to minority-owned enterprises. Twelve percent were African-American owned, representing 14 percent of the total dollars spent.

“As for vendors, we have an unprecedented goal of awarding 35 percent of our contracts to diverse companies,” said convention committee spokesman Lee Whack.

Two African-American-owned firms are among five major contracts the Democrats’ convention committee granted to minority businesses. There are 500 diverse suppliers and vendors registered to do business with the DNC and other Democratic entities.

Cornell Belcher, president of Brilliant Corners Research & Strategies, said the party’s real power and spending are centered in the congressional and senatorial committees, the Democratic Governors Association, and EMILY’s list, where Belcher once worked.

Groups like EMILY’s List (which supports pro-choice Democratic female candidates) face zero scrutiny and accountability, Belcher said.

Meanwhile, Republicans hope to erode black support for Democrats.

However, the Republican National Committee, which announced in 2013 that it would spend $10 million on minority outreach, did not respond to requests to analyze its own internal and vendor-diversity statistics.

Telly Lovelace, the GOP committee’s director for African-American Initiatives & Urban Media, instead spoke of its grassroots-level training efforts to engage the black community, including African-American operatives placed in seven battleground states, and plans to boost hiring into the fall.

Despite several notable departures among minority staffers in recent months, Lovelace denied the Republican headquarters is experiencing a so-called “black exodus.”

Kirsten Kukowski, the committee’s communications director, said organizers are working with more than a dozen minority-owned vendors and have several staffers conducting community outreach.

Richard Dickerson, a Democratic campaign operative, said an important conversation about money and influence needs to occur, because the people who run Democratic campaigns end up in senior government positions.

“They’re going to spend a billion dollars,” Dickerson said. “Ten percent of that is $100 million. If you put $100 million into the black community, you can see it.”

Peterson is a reporter for Urban News Service.


Local representatives take part in congressional sit-in

LOS ANGELES — Some Southland legislators were among dozens of Democrats taking part in a sit-in at the House of Representatives June 22, bringing congressional activity to a halt while they demanded a vote on a gun-control measure in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida.

“The American people are sick of silence,” said Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro. “They are demanding that Congress take action and protect their families. This nation has just witnessed the deadliest mass shooting in history and more people are dying every day. If we do not take action now, when will we?

“Inaction is tantamount to being complicit in the next attack,” she said. “I cannot stand for that.”

The sit-in was led by Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, who walked into the House chamber before noon and was joined by four dozen other Democrats who vowed to continue the sit-in until Republicans moved forward with a vote on gun-control legislation.

Democrats are pushing for legislation known as the “no fly, no buy” bill, barring people on the national no-fly list from being able to purchase guns.

The sit-in gained the attention of the White House, with President Barack Obama posting on Twitter, “Thank you John Lewis for leading on gun violence where we need it most.”

The action, however, did not appear likely to sway Republicans to vote on the issue.

AshLee Strong, spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, issued a statement saying, “The House cannot operate without members following the rules of the institution, so the House has recessed subject to the call of the chair.”

Democrats in the U.S. Senate staged a filibuster last week to push for a vote on gun legislation. Senators eventually held votes June 20 on four pieces of proposed legislation, all of which failed.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, was among those taking part in the sit-in, saying at one point that Republicans “don’t have the guts” to take on the “gun lobby.”

Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, also joined the protest, along with Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank.

Schiff announced his participation on Twitter, using the hashtags #EnoughIsEnough and #NoBillNoBreak.

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Los Angeles, applauded the sit-in and said he was honored to take part.

“Since the Orlando massacre, the worst mass shooting in our history, 500 more Americans have been the victims of gun violence,” Lieu said. “Enough is enough.”