Nanette Barragan is proving that the American dream is still alive.
The daughter of Mexican immigrants who grew up near Carson, became an attorney, moved to Hermosa Beach, was elected to City Council and became a stalwart opponent of oil drilling, is running for U.S. Congress in 2016.
Barragan, a Democrat, started pondering a run at Washington, D.C. after Hermosa voters resoundingly defeated Measure O. Throughout the last month she has received calls from community leaders encouraging her to run for Congress in California's 44th district. The 44th district includes San Pedro and stretches north to include Carson and Compton.
As a Councilwoman, Barragan saw firsthand how government can affect people's lives. She said, “it would be a dream to represent the community that has made me who I am today.”
“Being in Congress would mean that I would get to make sure that the people and the families of my community have a voice in Washington,” said Barragan, an attorney with the Los Angeles office of AlvaradoSmith, the largest minority-owned law firm in California. “Watching my parents work so hard to help build a life for me and my family was a major influence. When I was a student at UCLA, I had an opportunity to work at the White House where I realized people with my background could make a difference. I’ve always wanted to give back to our country and my community to help hard-working families like mine realize the American dream. Getting into politics is my way of giving back. I want the members of my community, no matter the level of government, City Council or Congress, to know that they have a representative who is fighting for them. I want the hard-working members of my community to feel truly supported.”
Barragan, currently the Mayor Pro Tem and City Council member since November 2013, said she's intrigued by the prospect of helping on a larger scale. Some of her initial goals would be to raise the minimum wage and getting equal pay for equal work so people can better support themselves and their families. Current 44th district Congresswoman Janice Hahn is not seeking re-election, but will instead will enter the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors race.
Barragan will go up against state Senator Isadore Hall III (D-Compton), who currently serves the 35th district. Hall announced his intentions in the 44th federal race weeks ago and already has a long list of endorsements, including Hahn, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, key Democrat party leaders as well as several trade unions.
Barragan, 38, will continue living in Hermosa Beach and will remain on the City Council during her Congressional campaign. If she's elected to Congress, Hermosa Beach Mayor Peter Tucker said he'd be sad to see Barragan leave the council given the passion and professionalism she's shown. But he understands her desire to serve the community she grew up in and at another level of government.
“She feels she can serve at a higher level … more power to her and good luck. It's a big stage,” Tucker said.
If Barragan's Congressional bid is successful, Tucker said Council would have a few options for filling her city seat. They could hold a special election, continue with four council members and wait until the November election where he and Councilman Michael DiVirgilio's seats are up or appoint someone for the remainder of her term.
Barragan recommends former Councilman Jeff Duclos as her replacement, considering his past service and his loss by seven votes in the last election. Duclos said he'd be interested and is confident he could step in seamlessly because of his knowledge and previous experience as a council member.
This isn't the first time Hermosans have seen one of their council members step into a Congressional race. Kit Bobko, who lost a race for the 36th district in 2011, said running for Congress is an incredible challenge, but the process is rewarding.
“It's a world of difference (comparing) politics of Hermosa Beach versus Congressional politics. It's the major leagues. It's the difference between making a pasta dinner for friends versus running Buona Vita over Labor Day weekend,” Bobko said.
He said the Congressional campaign will consume her life, but “I encourage her to do it.”
Barragan said she is ready for the challenges and believes that overall she is the best person for the position to serve the communities she grew up in.
“The people are what inspire me and to already have the support and encouragement from so many people to run means a great deal to me,” Barragan said. “California’s 44th congressional district is where I grew up and to have the opportunity to represent it would be an honor ... I want to go to Washington to make sure the people have a representative who has their best interests at heart.”