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Source: The Rafu Shimpo

TORRANCE — The campaign for the 66th Assembly District seat has been contentious, with Democrat Al Muratsuchi and Republican Craig Huey trading accusations through their mailers.

Huey characterizes Muratsuchi as a “government bureaucrat,” “defender of special interests” and “career politician who supports raising taxes,” while anti-Huey mailers say he “wants to privatize Social Security and Medicare” and “opposes a woman’s right to choose in all circumstances.” Muratsuchi’s ethnicity has not been an issue between the two candidates, but apparently some people are targeting him on racial grounds — despite the fact that the district, which includes Gardena, Torrance and Palos Verdes Estates, has a large Japanese American population. Al Muratsuchi greets a volunteer at his campaign headquarters.

In an interview with The Rafu Shimpo on Thursday, Muratsuchi reported that his campaign headquarters “got calls where I was called a ‘Jap,’ multiple calls. I don’t know if it’s an organized effort or just a prank ... On top of that, there was an old lady that yelled out of her car, ‘I’m not voting for that chink!’”

The candidate said he was disturbed by “the fact that there are people like that in the South Bay ... This is the first time we’re starting to get some of this racial stuff ... I am a little shocked ... Folks in the community should know that this is happening right in the South Bay.”

Muratsuchi did not hear the calls himself; most were fielded and transcribed by Eric Guerra, who is working full- time on the campaign.

“I believe in American folks, not Kenyans and Japs. I said Kenyans and Japs,” one caller was quoted as saying. “Kenyans” was an apparent reference to President Obama, whose father was from Kenya.

Guerra reported, “This afternoon I’ve taken five (offensive) calls. One person said, ‘Remember World War II.’ The other ones were very similar. You’d think that it’s something that happens 30-40 years ago.

“I’ve never seen anything like this directly where it’s so visceral. This is just clear hatred and hate speech.”

Guerra, who has started to keep a detailed log of such calls, said that another caller talked about the candidates’ stands on abortion. “They did say, ‘Huey is pro-life. Why does Al want to kill babies? Why is Al a baby-killer?’ Then it was back on to ‘We don’t need Japs like that’ ... a long tirade.”

The calls will be reported to the police, Guerra said.

While he is not suggesting that Huey had anything to do with the calls, Muratsuchi said, “My campaign manager talked to their campaign manager. They haven’t had an official statement (condemning the slurs).”

“I’ve been fighting this fight for the last 25 years,” he added. “It makes me so angry that we still have to deal with this kind of crap in this day and age.”