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Manhattan Beach Mayor Makes Bid to Represent Santa Monica, Southbay in State Senate

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By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

February 26, 2014 -- After more than a decade in local politics, Manhattan Beach Mayor Amy Howorth wants to take her experience to Sacramento.

Howorth, a former member of the Manhattan Beach School Board, is one of five candidates vying to represent the coastal cities from Palos Verdes to the Santa Monica Mountains in the State Senate.

And, with 11 years experience as an elected official in the small beachside community, Howorth believes that she can bring a local perspective to Sacramento.

“I have more elected experience than any of the other candidates,” said Howorth, who was first elected to office when she ran for a seat on the Manhattan Beach School Board in 2003. Howorth was elected to the City Council in 2011.

“I want to take that experience and use it for more folks,” said Howorth, who is currently serving as the town’s mayor. Like in Santa Monica, the mayor is chosen by the City Council from among the governing body’s members.

Two weeks ago, Howorth announced she would join the all-Democrat field of candidates running to represent State Senate District (SD) 26.

Also running are Santa Monica-Malibu School Boardmember Ben Allen and women’s rights activist and attorney Sandra Fluke. ("Santa Monica-Malibu School Board Member Launches State Senate Bid with Major Support," February 10).

Los Angeles physician Vito Imbasciani also entered the race recently along with former State Assemblymember Betsy Butler, who was unseated by former Santa Monica mayor Richard Bloom in 2012.

The crowded field is a result of the dramatic political shakeup in the district caused by 40-year veteran of the U.S. Congress Henry Waxman’s announcement in January that he would retire at the end of this year.

State Senator Ted Lieu, who currently represents SD 26, opted to seek Waxman’s seat rather than run for reelection, leaving his seat up for grabs.

“Senator Lieu and I are similar on many issues,” said Howorth, who describes herself as an advocate for the environment and for education.

Howorth celebrated Manhattan Beach’s leadership in the regional push to ban single-use plastic bags. And, she said, Manhattan Beach is working on a smoking ban that would keep cigarette butts from polluting the beach.

For Howorth, the environment, education and economic vitality are all intertwined.

“To me, the environment is an economic issue,” she said, adding that a polluted coastline is bad for local businesses. So is a poorly-educated workforce, Howorth said.

“We see problems and we solve them,” she said. “I will take that same mentality up to Sacramento.”

That mentality, which Howorth said she learned from years of local political work, means being aware of how her decisions impact her neighbors.

When she was first elected to the School Board, recent budget cuts at the State level had put many districts -- including the 6,600-student Manhattan Beach district -- in crisis mode.

“I thought there was something really missing from their deliberations,” Howorth said, who was working with District officials as a member of the Parent-Teacher Association at the time. “I didn't see a lot of consensus building.”

After she was elected, Howorth worked to fix the problems she saw in the District leadership when she was in the PTA. But, she still had to make hard choices based on the State’s fiscal realities.

“I've had to look my son's first-grade teacher in the eye -- and she was an amazing teacher -- and know I'm giving her a pink slip,” she said.

Howorth, who moved to Manhattan Beach from the Bay Area with her husband in 1997, has had to deal with a wider variety of issues since moving to the City Council in 2011.

That’s made her aware of how her approximately 4,000 square mile city, home to about 35,000 people, interacts with the larger region.

“As the mayor of a city, I understand that I have a responsibility for regional issues” like maintaining healthy levels of water quality, addressing traffic along Sepulveda and other thoroughfares and expanding the region’s bike and public transit networks, she said.

Howorth believes that her experience of working with her community and her colleagues on Manhattan Beach’s politically-diverse City Council, uniquely qualify her for the job in Sacramento.

“What it comes down to is finding common values and goals,” she said.

Howorth and the other four candidates will face off in the June 3 primary, after which the two candidates with the most votes will go on to the November general election.

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