Congressional Candidates Answer

By Mikaela STONE

The candidates interviewed below are Senator Anthony Portantino and Representative Laura Friedman who are running for the 30th Congressional district and Representative Judy Chu and William Patterson who are running for the 28th Congressional district. They were asked the following questions:


Given the realities of politics and the legislative process, what do you believe you can realistically legislatively accomplish, if elected, in your first/next term?

Judy Chu: “Our legislative process is, by design, a slow one. It is meant to be that way so that legislators can deliberate, hear from experts, and consider the pros and cons before making changes to our nation’s laws. I think that there is value to this approach because it means that our country isn’t swinging back and forth between extreme policies every couple of years. Now, despite the partisan gridlock, I worked hard in my role as a Congress member to work on policies and make a meaningful difference, especially for those here in the San Gabriel Valley. I hope to continue that work if I am reelected. For instance, as a member of the Small Business Committee, I have been determined to find bipartisan compromises when possible.”

She acknowledged that one of the biggest issues many small businesses face is access to capital; however, in November 2021 Congress passed her Investing in Main Street Act with bipartisan support. Both parties agreed on the idea of making more no-risk money available for “high potential” businesses. As many potential business owners from underserved areas face additional obstacles for traditional loans, Chu is trying to make the pilot Community Advantage Loan Program permanent, which will allow more businesses to qualify for Small Business Association backed loans.

Another bill with Chu’s high bipartisan support came from the Ways and Means Committee that increases the child tax credit and has the potential to help California build up to 15,000 new affordable rental units each year.

Laura Friedman blames culture war issues for the gridlock much of the government faces. “We [Americans] can’t stop fighting for the things that are the most important. If we give up on the federal government we don’t have much left, whether or not it’s achievable to make sure everyone has access to the ballot box across the country, that we stop partisan gerrymandering, that we get corporate money out of politics … we have to keep trying because our democracy is at stake.”

William Patterson recognizes that if elected he would be one of 400 people. “One person can’t really do anything but one person can sway public opinion to get those ideas moving forward. If the public knows and wants these things, it will happen eventually.”

Anthony Portantino recognizes that the current political system is divided but feels he can be a positive influence on the “dysfunction currently in Washington.” He believes the government needs people who are “effective at getting things done. We also need people who are even-keeled in their comportment. I have strong convictions and principles and I believe very strongly in what I believe in but I’ve been very effective at working across the aisle, very effective at generating consensus. If the bad people in politics discourage the good people from getting involved, then the bad people win by default.”

What do you think are the three most important issues facing our country?

Judy Chu:

  1. Her priority is upholding the will of the people in elections. She believes America has to “strengthen our democracy by passing laws that would expand voting access … that would make sure we adhere to the rule of law … that makes America the powerful country that it is.”
  2. Reproductive rights. “When the Supreme Court stripped away the constitutional right to abortion in its Dobbs v.s. Jackson decision, we saw nearly half the states implement near or total abortion bans, and we have heard that in those states women are experiencing horror stories of being denied abortions with pregnancies that have no chance of being carried to term, of women having to go septic before they could be given the abortion they need to survive. And of course we saw that story of a 10-year-old who was raped and then forced to travel out of state to receive an abortion because her home state had such a severe abortion ban.”
    She warns that Californians will be affected as well if a federal abortion ban is passed or if mifepristone, a drug used in abortions, is banned. She has proposed legislation to effectively restore Roe v. Wade.
  3. Gun violence, which affects Judy Chu personally as a resident of Monterey Park where a shooter killed 11 people and wounded nine at a dance studio.
    “He shot 42 times within a matter of minutes because he had a high capacity assault weapon. I have seen firsthand the devastation that caused and met firsthand with all the victims’ families to help them.”
    She got other politicians involved to aid the families, including both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The perpetrator had both been amassing ammunition for some time and had been struggling with mental health issues which, had red flag laws been known about by locals, may have prevented the shooting. Chu’s proposed legislation provides outreach to help citizens understand the laws in place that protect them.

Laura Friedman:

  1. Friedman restated how important ensuring accessibility of voting is as well as ending partisan gerrymandering and refusing corporate money in the government. She calls for government officials that stand by the popular vote regardless of party and protect the vote from tampering. She asserted these pitfalls are “making people lose faith in the government.” She notes that it is a Congressperson’s primary role to defend democracy.
  2. Climate change. “[Climate change is a] huge existential threat to the whole world. We’ve seen it here in California with mega fires. I am doing more than anyone else in this race to combat climate change; that is why I am supported by every environmentalist that has endorsed [a candidate] in this race that I know of.”
  3. Homelessness and housing. “[This is] a crisis not just in Los Angeles but through the entire nation. We cannot let our worries and our fears lead us into paralysis.”

William Patterson:

  1. Labor, the employer/employee relationship. “As of right now, employers own the means of production and decide employees’ fates. There hasn’t been any kind of labor movement since it was squashed in the 1940s. A lot of workers just accept the pay they get, the worker benefits they get, and who gets to control politics. It’s the workers that control the value that is produced in society.”
  2. Climate Change. “[Climate change is] the biggest external threat to the United States and to the world.”
    “[The world] has known about climate change for decades now, and [America] keeps saying, ‘We’ll fix it eventually.’ But there really hasn’t been any movement on that.
  3. The Economy. “As an economy and as a people we value war more than we value feeding children or updating our infrastructure or eradicating homelessness, which is something that is totally possible. We send our billions overseas and to other things in government rather than things we should view as a priority. All we have to do is decide we do want things to change. As workers we have the power to do that.”

Anthony Portantino:

  1. Democracy and “efforts to undo much of what we have accomplished in society, whether that be reproductive rights, civil rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, our efforts to safeguard our children’s health and welfare, there are attempts to roll back all of that progress and I think that is a real threat to our country.”
  2. The Economy. He highlights the necessity for a plan for the middle class and to create jobs and educational opportunities so that America can have a strong workforce. “That big picture economic plan is missing.”
  3. The lack of civility. “It has become commonplace and accepted to bully and intimidate. It’s funny – my efforts to inject civility into the discourse get attacked from folks who want to have anger and intimidation dominate the discourse. And I keep telling people, ‘You’ll be heard a lot louder if you lower your voice.’ We used to refer it as ‘Use the voice you would at grandma’s house.’ We have to return to a civil society and social media [and certain political campaigns] have been ratcheting up rhetoric and I try to ratchet it down.”

What is the most important experience you will bring to your office if elected?

William Patterson: “Being a young person (Patterson is 31 years old). That [may seem] like a weird answer but the average age of democrats in Congress is 59 [according to Quorum], so [I’m] not only a voice for my generation and younger people, but putting ideas out there that maybe the public would not have thought of otherwise. Everything I propose is not only for the benefits of my constituents, but for the next generation [and] the country. I’m not in this for the status or the money [but because I am] fed up with politics nowadays. Instead of complaining about it I wanted to do something instead.”
He noted that there is a generational divide between the majority of Congress and the majority of the workforce, and many young people “feel that there is nothing they can do.”

What have you brought to the office since being elected?

Judy Chu entered the political scene due to anti-immigrant English-only laws being proposed in Monterey Park, escalating from English-only street signs and the removal of non-English books from the local library to the outright banning of non-English languages in the city. Chu joined a coalition to stop the laws mandating only English be spoken in the city and ultimately overturned them, but the experience taught her “the city council did not represent the makeup of the city.” She succeeded in running for city council and used her position to allow for “cross-cultural dialogue” to unite Monterey Park and help people understand one another better.

Laura Friedman: “I believe that people that pay attention know where I stand and know who I am. I am a founding member of the legislative progressive caucus, I chaired in the environmental caucus, I have been a very strong labor ally, I am unequivocal in my support for LGBT rights, for the right to access abortion, and I am also someone who has done a lot of very bold legislation. I am not a benchwarmer.” She defines her victories as bold, gained through hard work and indicative of her own beliefs.

Anthony Portantino: “It’s my ability to work across the aisle and get things done. There are ‘I’ politicians and ‘we’ politicians. I’m not trying to be a Twitter star, I’m trying to just represent the district and work collaboratively as a ‘we’ politician. It’s not your name on the parking spot that matters, it’s what you do with the opportunity that matters. We have a lot of people in politics, and we play games and angles. What people want is somebody who is honest and looks them in the eye and says, ‘You know what? I agree with you on this but I disagree with you on that.’ You want people who say the same thing in every room they are in.”

Have you ever held office before? What in your life has prepared you for this? 

During Judy Chu’s time in politics since 2009, she focused on coalition building. As a city council member, she worked closely with individual constituents to understand the importance of firefighters, transportation and quality of life issues such as green space. She believes that everyone deserves a high quality of life, healthy bodies and hope for the future.

Although Laura Friedman has a long history in politics, she also credits her time as a film producer for teaching her to find a vision, build a team, inspire people and coordinate large projects. This helps her to build consensus and work towards shared goals, which she used to overcome obstacles to building policy in her seven years on the Glendale City Council and eight years in the California State Assembly. In Congress, she has been chair of the Natural Resources Committee, chair of the Transportation Committee, and a member of the Sexual Harassment Subcommittee.

While William Patterson has not held office before, his perspective as a young person, combined with the research he has done and his experience marketing for a medical services company, prepared him for talking to people and not letting rejection wear him down. It also gave him insight into issues working class people faced getting health care. He described America as the only country in the world to force medical debt onto sick people and their families whether the patient survived or not.

In spite of having been a member of the California State Assembly from 2006 to 2012 and a state senator since 2016, Anthony Portantino never originally wanted to be a politician, but felt that it was his calling to create legislation that would help people on a personal level. Portantino is an advocate for suicide prevention because he lost a brother to suicide, which extends to his policy regarding behavioral health for students. He believes that his dedication to the community is his strength, coaching soccer teams and working with and in Parent Teachers Associations (PTA). Both he and his wife are active PTA members in the Glendale PTA. He received the Honorary Service Award from the PTA council and Clark, and secured $8 million to preserve Rockhaven.

Do you believe that politicians should be held judicially responsible for their actions regardless of party?

Judy Chu: Yes. “No one is above the law. In fact, we take an oath when we assume elected office, and we should of course uphold that oath. We should strive to live in a system where the laws treat everybody equally, no matter where you’re from, what party you are a part of, or whether you hold a powerful political office.”

Laura Friedman: Yes. “I am willing to hold the government accountable, and it does not matter to me whether that’s democrat-led or republican-led, to make sure [the government has] real transparency and that we have ethics and accountability at every level of government.” She cited her work to hold the high speed rail authority accountable by appointing an inspector general to oversee the project.

William Patterson: Yes. “Our elected representatives are not above us in any way, they’re just people. People should be prosecuted when they do something wrong.”

Anthony Portantino: Yes. “Everyone should be treated the same without a bias.”

Individual Questions:

On his website, Patterson proposed instituting an easy pathway for immigrants to become legal citizens to solve border issues. What would this easy pathway be?

Patterson: “A lot of Americans view immigration as one problem when every country has their own immigration process [from that country to America]. For example, in Mexico you basically cannot come here if you don’t have a sponsor, which is most likely a relative. But people of Cuba, let’s say, just have to touch American soil and they’re an American citizen.”
This law was in place until as recently as 2017. Still, Cuban immigration laws are more lax than Mexican immigration laws. As of 2023, Cubans with U.S. citizen or permanent resident family members can apply for temporary access to U.S. soil and take the steps to permanent residency while in the U.S. without being held in detention centers as Mexican immigrants. Even the naturalization of a family member under 18 from Mexico takes years. Commenting on this difficulty, Patterson said, “It’s no wonder Mexican workers come here illegally just to work. It never used to be that way until politicians began to politicize the border.”

Chu has worked on the Creative Rights Caucus during her career. Will she continue that work? What will that look like with the introduction of A.I.?

Chu: “[I will continue my work in the Creative Rights Caucus] very enthusiastically! In fact, I started the Creative Rights Caucus because I felt that the story of the creators [was] not being told and that that was negatively influencing the laws of Congress. What we do now is have many briefings about the music, television and film industry and we have something called ‘Beyond the red carpet’ where people can actually see the many jobs the creative industries support. I am very proud to support [them]. My district is one that has many of these creators.”

Her goal is to support the “people behind the scenes. These aren’t the high profile people that are in Malibu or Hollywood. Our greatest export is [entertainment].” Regarding A.I., she seeks to ensure “artificial intelligence is not being used to rob these artists of the compensation that they deserve; overall [Congress] needs to look at the development of A.I. very closely so that we can make sure that not only do we fulfill its potential but that we don’t have negative consequences that might come from misinformation.” 

On her website, Friedman promised her support to uphold labor laws and the fair treatment of workers and cited her work to ensure University of California campuses use union labor. Where does she stand on the recent graduate student strikes

Friedman: “I support working people’s ability to advocate for themselves for fair wages, for workplace safety. Actually, one of my very best friends [has a] son that has been part of that strike. The fact that he and his colleagues work really long hours and cannot afford a place to live near their college shows the need for making sure that their wages reflect their efforts.”

In 2023, Portantino won the distinction in higher education legacy. Why did they select him?

Portantino: “I’ve worked very closely with a number of education folks this year, whether it was school counselors or higher education advocates or some of the behavioral health groups. You know, those bread and butter family issues are what drives me. It’s why I’m a public official. I want to do things that positively affect our kids and their behavioral health, and families. It’s why I talk about the need for economic development and preserving the entertainment industry. I was instrumental in creating tax incentives to create jobs in our district. I also work very closely with the non-profits. I’ve been blessed that a number of them have recognized my work. You don’t do it for the accolades, but you appreciate when they notice your work ethic and connection to those issues.”

Additional Comments:

Patterson, on his decision to run third party with the Peace and Freedom party:

“Ever since I could remember even before I got into politics, [growing up my peers and I heard my parents say], ‘I’m voting for this person because they’re the lesser of two evils’ and there’s no reason it should be like that in politics. It should be because someone wants to help their fellow Americans. That’s what has really frustrated me. It is Bernie that originally inspired me in 2015 or 2016 to get involved.”

The Peace and Freedom party stands for socialism, feminism and environmentalism, values which Patterson shares. As those terms come with a lot of preconceived notions, he believes that it is crucial to never stop explaining, quoting President Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso, who said, “When the people understand, they cannot help but follow us.” For Patterson, this means telling people, ‘Yes, you do deserve more and hey, things can be better.’ So why aren’t they?”

Friedman, on her belief in the social contract between Congressperson and constituent:

“[A Congressperson’s job] is to strengthen the social contract of making sure that every person has access to rights, has access to their basic needs like health care, clean water, excellent education for their children so everyone can thrive. That’s the American promise, the American dream, that’s why my father came here from Europe, the reason my husband moved here as an adult, to immigrate into this country. I believe in it. I believe we are a beacon of freedom for the world.”

Chu, on her concerns for her constituents:

“I also want to make sure that everybody can have economic security and that is that they are not living from paycheck to paycheck, or where they cannot afford even a $400 emergency. In fact, I was very alarmed when I saw that 40% of the people cannot afford a $400 emergency. That is very worrisome for anybody, so we need to make sure that people have the ability to not worry about where their next dollar is going to come from, that they can put food on the table and pay the rent.”

Portantino, on Glendale, La Crescenta, and the Foothills:

Portantino: “I feel very positive about my working productive relationship with the Armenian American community [in the area]. Working on education issues, Glendale Community College issues, helping to fund the Armenian American Museum in Glendale is a very important priority of mine. It’s the little projects that mean a lot to a lot of people [like] preserving the rich history of Rockhaven and making sure we have sports facilities that our young people can use.” I have been active supporting a lot of the veterans throughout the district. When people ask me what sets me apart from the other candidates, I think it’s my presence within the community, at community events with my family. We love the district, we love the community. One of the veterans once told me that he supports me because I come to bingo night. I said, ‘I come to bingo night because I like to play bingo and the pizza is cheap.’”

This election season Portantino has remained dedicated to correcting misinformation and remaining civil pertaining to the GUSD as “it’s about our children’s health and wellness. It’s about having our schools be welcoming and kind, nurturing places. Riots and intimidation and violence are not, in my mind, conducive to a healthy atmosphere.”

Portantino is a common face in the local community, from attending the Montrose Christmas Parade to holding Mass in his home with members of the Italian Catholic Federation branch 374 at St. Bede the Venerable Roman Catholic Church in La Cañada Flintridge.

Final Statements:

Patterson: “Change comes from the bottom up rather than the government down.” He fully endorses unions and encourages working class people to unionize in their own workplace. 

Friedman: She noted that the LA Times referred to her as a “clear choice.” She is proud she has been endorsed by the “vast majority of democratic clubs in the district, by elected officials from our lieutenant governor all the way down to many of our local council members and city commissioners.”

Chu: While Judy Chu did not have any official closing statements, at the time of the interview, Jan. 28, the U.S. had just withdrawn humanitarian aid from Gaza. Chu acknowledged the current lack of food and medicine for those wartorn and stated that refugees “need every resource that they can get. [America] has to do everything possible to increase the amount of humanitarian aid going into Gaza. Already we have so many people that have been displaced, so many people have been killed; at the very least we need to make sure that those who are there have clean water, have medicine and have food to eat. This is something that cannot wait. We have to turn around the situation and make sure that they get the humanitarian aid that they need.”

Portantino: “I truly believe it is an honor and a privilege to serve. It’s not about me, it’s about the community.”