Joe Buscaino wins 15th District city council seat

Joe Buscaino
Joe Buscaino
Frank Stoltze/KPCC

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Los Angeles voters Tuesday elected another person closely connected to the LAPD to the city council. Police Sgt. Joe Buscaino becomes the fourth officer, reserve officer or retired officer on the 15-member council.

Buscaino, 37, soundly beat State Assemblyman Warren Furutani by garnering about 61 percent of the vote.
16 percent of registered voters cast ballots, or about 16,000 people. Nearly half of the people mailed in their ballots.

He’ll represent the 15th council district, which stretches from San Pedro north to Watts. He fills the seat left vacant by Janice Hahn; voters elected her to Congress last year.

The newcomer won thanks in part to big independent expenditures on his behalf by the labor union that represents LAPD cops. That union, along with the one that represents Department of Water and Power workers and the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce, spent nearly half-a-million dollars on Buscaino’s campaign.

Buscaino also won because of his strong San Pedro roots. He was born and raised there, and serves as an LAPD senior lead officer in the area.

“I’ve always said I wanted to come back and serve in my hometown,” Buscaino told KPCC before Election Day. “This has been quite an amazing, humbling experience running for office for the first time, turning some heads across the city,” he said.

Furutani expressed frustration during an election that saw old allies like City Council President Herb Wesson abandon him for Buscaino.

“People on the city council are calling me saying ‘we love you Warren, we’re praying for you, but hey I’m going to go with the guy I don’t know because I’m concerned if he wins.”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the Sierra Club and the L.A. County Democratic Party backed Furutani, who would have been only the second Asian American ever elected to the city council.

Buscaino’s father was a fisherman and his mother worked in the canneries. He described summers spent on the fishing docks of San Pedro. His wife is a public school teacher in the area. They have two children.

On the campaign trail, Buscaino touted his Italian American roots, and said he looked up to the late, legendary City Council President John Ferraro. He pointed out 40,000 Italian Americans live in the district.

Buscaino also said he looked forward to serving on the council.

"My family instilled in me the importance of faith, of family and of community, of public service, of giving back, of doing good for others.”