June 16, 2011. Torrance, CA. The race to fill California’s US House seat in the 36th District has gotten ugly. The special run-off election to send a new Representative to Washington pits LA City Councilwoman Janice Hahn against advertising executive Craig Huey. With 26 days before voters head to the polls, an outside special interest group called Turn Right USA has launched an online video ad campaign that has political watchdogs on both sides up in arms.
If readers haven’t seen the video on their local news or TMZ, they probably will very soon. Democratic Councilwoman Hahn has demanded that her opponent condemn the ad. Her Republican challenger for California’s US House seat, Craig Huey, has yet to comment publicly. Huey positioned himself as an outsider in a three-way contest for the CA House seat. Besides LA Councilwoman Hahn, the third opponent was California Secretary of State Debra Bowen. In a photo-finish, Hahn squeaked out a victory with 24.6 percent to Huey’s 22.2 percent and Bowen’s 21 percent. While coming in a close second, it was a shocking upset for the political long-shot Craig Huey. Now, Huey faces Hahn in the one on one run-off.
The focus of the attack ad by Turn Right USA is one of Los Angeles’ programs to reduce gang violence. Championed by Hahn, the specific program is called, ‘Unity One, Saving Lives by Promoting Peace, Love and Respect’. The group’s mission is to ‘Assist community development by cultivating relationships of citizens, intervention practitioners, and stake holders; seeking the well-being of our neighborhoods’. That doesn’t sound like a bad mission for neighborhoods that are in desperate need of development and stake holders, not to mention a little well-being and even intervention.
It’s that last word, ‘intervention’, that takes us to the 36th Congressional election. The group Turn Right USA’s new video ad uses Hahn’s work in championing programs that give a path to a normal life to kids in gangs who want a way out. The exact tactic being criticized is the practice of hiring former gang members to work as gang intervention specialists. The city pays these young men, most former convicts, to go into the gang war zones and speak directly to the gang members and gang leaders on behalf of the city and people of Los Angeles. Their message – stop the violence and stop the killing. From the words of one gang interventionist, “We go in and talk them out of retaliating”.
For that dangerous and noble mission, the city of Los Angeles pays these young men, according to some reports, approximately $500 per week. In return, these former gang members get a second chance. If they’re honest with the program, they no longer represent the gang. Instead, they sit on the opposite side of the negotiating table representing the citizens. Like any job, they must abide by the law and not commit any criminal acts. As the political ad by Craig Huey’s supporters reveal, some of the young men eventually fall back into their old ways. Indeed, a handful of the program’s participants went on to commit horrible crimes.
While the above description could be applied to any city in the US with a gang problem and programs to combat it, this happens to be coming from Los Angeles, the city with the largest gang population in America. It’s a sensitive topic and sure to touch a few nerves on both sides. While defenders of free speech will probably say there is nothing wrong with the video but bad taste and bad dancing, most would agree that this particular ad and the campaign associated with it have gone way over the line.
Turn Right USA’s website, Hahnshomeboyz.com, claims in its first line, ‘Janice Hahn (D, Los Angeles City Council) increased gang violence by using taxpayer money to hire gang members!’. It only gets worse from there. The ad goes on to visually compare the Councilwoman with every known serial killer and mass murder in history. Watch the video and see for yourself.
WARNING: YouTube has an age-restriction on this video, so be advised – video contains sexual, vulgar and violent content. Visit the website at hahnshomeboyz.com for the full video.
In response, Councilwoman Janice Hahn’s website had the following response, “I thought I’d seen extreme, offensive campaign ads before, but then I saw the latest video posted by Craig Huey supporters. If you haven’t watched it, don’t. But know that its degrading to women in the worst way, and any reasonable candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives would demand that his supporters apologize and take down the video. Instead, we have to fight this kind of thing ourselves, and we need your help.”