Assembly District 45 Special Election Voter Guide

Why is there an election on April 3?

This special election was triggered when former AD-45 Assemblymember Matt Dababneh stepped down from office in December 2017, after details of past allegations of sexual harassment (specifically, allegations of chasing a Sacramento lobbyist into a bathroom and masturbating in front of her during a group trip to Las Vegas) came out in the press. Dababneh denied the allegations, but still stepped down.

Dababneh will not be missed. Besides being a probable harasser, he was a proud member of the State Assembly’s “mod squad” of “business Democrats” who regularly stalled or watered down progressive legislation in the all-democratic California government, essentially functioning as an opposition spoiler caucus for the entire state.

The district itself is one of the wealthier and more conservative assembly districts within Los Angeles county, with a median family income of $67,500 and an electorate of 268,000 that’s 66% white, 18% Latinx, 11% Asian, and 4% Black, with 49% registered Democrats, 22% registered Republicans, and 24% registered NPP voters.

District Map - find your polling place here

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The Candidates 


Ankur Patel (D)

Overview:

As the only candidate running a corporate-free campaign in the district, who’s been endorsed by DSA allies like the California Nurses’ Association, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) and Food and Water Action, and progressive political groups like Our Revolution National, Ground Game LA, Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), and several progressive Democratic clubs, Patel is the clear progressive choice in AD-45.

Background:

Patel was born and raised in the West Valley. After finishing his bachelor’s at UCLA, he worked at the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) as an organizer at Kaiser Permanente hospitals across LA county, and then went to CSU Northridge to pursue a Master’s degree in transportation planning. 

After completing his degree, he ran for the District 3 seat on the LAUSD board in 2015, coming in 3rd place with 13 percent of the vote (a little under 5,000). Following that run, he was hired to work as the School and Community Coordinator for the District 3 LAUSD Board Member, Scott Schmerelson. Patel has also been an active member of his local neighborhood council, Food & Water Watch, and has recently joined the new Valley Chapter of the LA Tenants Union.

Platform:

  • Supports single-payer healthcare in the model of Medicare for All (and won the endorsement of the CNA for his dedication to the cause)
  • Wants to ban fracking and transition to an all-renewable economy by 2035
  • Is a strong advocate for public education
  • Supports the repeal of the Costa-Hawkins and Ellis Acts (which ban rent control and allow for no-cause evictions, respectively—the ballot measure to repeal Costa-Hawkins has been endorsed by DSA-LA )
  • Wants to ban cash bail, end the death penalty, and require police to engage in de-escalation tactics
  • Supports the creation of a public bank
  • Supports California’s status as a sanctuary state
  • Received a perfect score on the ACLU Southern California scorecard 

Finances

Patel is the only candidate in the race who is not accepting corporate donations—the majority of his campaign financing has come from small-dollar donations, plus a few large contributions from Food & Water Action and the California Nurses Association.

Jesse Gabriel (D)

Overview:

With a vast amount of funding, an endorsement by the SEIU State Council, and endorsements from politicians in the West Valley and across the county, Gabriel is the front-runner for the seat.

Despite some bona fides defending immigrants’ rights and supporting environmental causes and stated support for single-payer healthcare, Gabriel’s funding sources (and some of his endorsements) give lie to his progressive veneer. One of his listed endorsements comes from a board member of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces. The majority of his direct contributions come from realtors, real estate developers, and landlords (though oil companies and corporate lawyers are also in the mix), and the Charter School Lobby has spent over $250,000 in independent expenditures in support of Gabriel. 

Background

An attorney and Ventura County native, Gabriel began his political career as counsel and senior advisor to Indiana senator, Blue Dog Democrat, former Fox News commentator, and private equity lobbyist Evan Bayh. For the past year, he’s been working on two lawsuits to sue the Trump administration to protect the rights of DACA recipients (AKA Dreamers).

Despite describing himself as a “constitutional rights attorney,” he also represents corporate clients at the huge international firm Gibson Dunn and Crutcher, whose notable cases include:

  • Representing Chevron in its long-running, $27 billion environmental dispute in Ecuador.
  • Defending Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. in the landmark $11 billion employment discrimination class action suit
  • Representing the Dole Food Company in a multibillion-dollar toxic tort suit in Nicaragua involving allegations of farmworker sterility from Dole's use of certain pesticides.

(Gabriel was not, to our knowledge, personally involved in the cited cases.) 

He also sits on the board of directors of the LA League of Conservation Voters and the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Platform:

Gabriel’s platform is not clearly defined, but he has publicly stated that he supports:

  • A transition to single-payer healthcare
  • Promoting “neighborhood safety”
  • Protecting immigrants from ICE and Trump administration policies
  • Bail reform (though not the abolition of cash bail)
  • Approaching the housing crisis by promoting a “housing first” model and championing affordable and permanent supportive housing (but not repealing Costa-Hawkins, the Ellis Act, or Prop 13) 

Finance:

Gabriel is by far the best-funded of the candidates in AD-45, with over $300,000 in his war chest for the April 3 special election. This money has come from the pockets of Palantir employees, corporate lawyers, oil companies, and Big Dental (along with a handful of unions), but the largest proportion of it has come from real estate developers, realtors, and landlords.

The California Charter School Association has also spent over $250,000 on independent expenditures in the past month supporting Gabriel.

Another representative chunk of money came from Govern for California, an anti-labor coalition of bay area millionaires and billionaires started by former Schwarzenegger advisor and public pension opponent David Crane, Walmart board member and major Republican donor Greg Penner, and tech mogul Ron Conway, who’s given thousands to Republicans like Darrell Issa and Orrin Hatch. 

Tricia Robbins Kasson (D)

Overview

Tricia Robbins Kasson is the only woman running for this seat and the candidate with the most support from the LA political establishment.

As the economic development deputy for sitting West Valley city councilor Bob Blumenfield, Robbins Kasson has racked up endorsements from 12 of the 15 members of the LA City Council and a smattering of county, state, and federal politicians. 

She’s also been endorsed by the CA Legislative Black Caucus, the CA Legislative Women’s Caucus, groups that fund women running for office like Emily’s List and Fund Her, and interest groups like Democrats for Israel and the Los Angeles Police Protective League (the police union)—and much of her funding comes from the real estate industry.

Background

Raised in Reseda in a working-class home, Robbins Kasson became the first person in her family to receive a college degree when she graduated from CSUN with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration and Real Estate. 

She went on to get a Master’s in Economic Development from USC, and quickly put that degree to work at the West Valley firm hired to come up with a plan for development around the Warner Center, then went to work for Blumenfield. In 2017, she went through the Democratic Party’s Emerge California program, which trains women to run for office. 

Platform

Robbins Kasson’s campaign website goes into detail on the current problems facing California in various areas, but fail to mention many specific policy positions. She does, however support:

  • Single-payer healthcare
  • Funding mass transit and bike lane expansion
  • Dense housing development
  • Public schooling
  • Stricter gun control—and stationing a police officer at all schools
  • DACA and sanctuary state policies

Finances

At around $170,000, Robbins Kasson has the second largest pile of money in the race. The majority of the contributions have come from her endorsers and their PACs—other electeds, the legislative caucuses, the pro-women PACs—or from the real estate industry.

The charter lobby has thrown their full weight behind Gabriel in this race, lending credibility to Robbins Kasson’s commitment to public education, and no independent expenditures have spent for or against her candidacy.

Raymond Bishop (D)

Overview

Bishop is a well-connected Democratic Party functionary and commercial real estate broker listed as a “small business owner” on the ballot—his small business is Bishop Associates, a one-stop shop where you can buy a spot at a strip mall and Tujunga and hire Ray himself as a campaign manager or political consultant.

He’s raised very little money, and doesn’t seem to have any public endorsements.

Background

Bishop has lived in Southern California since the 1950s, and describes himself as a Vietnam veteran anti-war activist. He has owned or helped operate hospitals and restaurants across LA, and has been involved in Democratic Party politics since the 1970s.

Today, besides running Bishop Associates, Bishop also serves as the chair of the California Democratic Party’s Business & Professional Caucus, is a commissioner on the LA County Small Business Commission, is a LA City Planning Commissioner, sits on the Executive Board of the LA County Democratic Party, and is the Chair and CEO of the Public Banking Initiative of California. He was voted “LA County Democrat of the Year” in 2011.

Platform

Bishop has publicly stated that he:

  • Supports Medicare for All
  • Wants to close the commercial property loophole in Prop 13
  • Champions cleaning up the Santa Susana nuclear waste site and Aliso Canyon facility
  • Supports breaking up big banks, and supports a public bank
  • Believes dark money is a negative influence on our political system

Finances

Bishop seems to be taking his dedication to getting money out of politics to heart—despite his many connections, he has raised under $20,000 from a total of 8 people and one shady LLC.

Daniel Brin (D)

Overview

Brin is president of the West Hill neighborhood council and administrator of the 13,500-member “West Hills, California” Facebook page. After a long career as a journalist, he now works as a managing editor at Bleiweiss Communications, a labor union and nonprofit communications firm

His only publicly articulated policy positions are in favor of single-payer healthcare and more funding for arts and transit infrastructure in the Valley, and he has raised $500 for his campaign. Good luck, Dan.

Dennis P. Zine (NPP)

Overview

The former LAPD officer, police union board member, registered Republican, and LA City Councilman (2001-13) for District 3 (which overlaps with the southern part of Assembly District 45) would have been a strong contender for this seat, even though he is not a Democrat like most of his voters.

However, for reasons not entirely clear (he referred to another “great opportunity” in a public statement), Zine withdrew from the race only 2 weeks after announcing his intent to run. In this special election called as a result of sexual harassment allegations, Zine’s history of alleged sexual harassment might have influenced his decision to rethink his candidacy.

Jeff Bornstein (D)

Overview

Bornstein is a longtime and fervent critic of Zine, whom he ran against in the 2013 race for LA City Controller (a third candidate won). In this race, it seems that he filed to make sure that Zine wasn’t elected. The day after he filed, Zine withdrew, and the Bornstein campaign went dark.

Justin M. Clark (R)

Overview

Clark, a CSU Northridge student, is the only Republican in the race. He is 18 years old.