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11 applicants seek to fill Torrance City Council vacancy

The council will make the appointment May 12.

Former Torrance City Council members Heidi Ashcraft and Bill Sutherland are among a field of 11 candidates seeking a two-year appointment to the at-large seat formerly occupied by Councilman George Chen.

Chen beat fellow Councilman Geoff Rizzo in March to represent District 2 in the inaugural municipal district elections.

But that left Chen’s seat vacant until 2022, when the next round of district elections are scheduled.

The council will appoint Chen’s successor at its May 12 meeting.

Ashcraft and Sutherland are perhaps the best-known candidates.

They are also the only applicants who have previously served as elected officials in the city. That experience could prove valuable over the next year or so as Torrance grapples with the loss of billions in tax revenues because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ashcraft, a former trustee with the Torrance Unified School District, was appointed in 2013 to replace Cliff Numark and was the top vote-getter in the council election the next year.

But she did not seek a second four-year term in 2018, a move that surprised some political observers who thought she was a potential mayoral candidate.

Sutherland served on the council from 2006 to 2014, exiting the panel after an unsuccessful mayoral campaign.

The other candidates are:

  • David Caceres, a former Torrance deputy city attorney who now serves as assistant city attorney in Simi Valley;
  • Andrew DeBlock, a staffer in the office of South Bay Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi; DeBlock lost to incumbent Councilman Mike Griffiths in the District 6 race;
  • Charles Deemer, a member of the Environmental Quality Commission and frequent council meeting speaker.
  • Jon Kaji, who has long been active in political and economic development circles locally and was a member of the California Economic Development Commission;
  • G. Rick Marshall, a longtime political activist in the community, who is currently chairman of the Planning Commission;
  • Ruben Molina, a laboratory manager for a plastics company who has never held public office;
  • Mario Obejas, who unsuccessfully sought a council appointment in 2014, and is a member of the Traffic Commission;
  • Asam Sheikh, who ran unsuccessfully for a council seat in 2016, is currently a Planning Commission member; and
  • Mark Stephenson, a frequent speaker at Torrance council meetings, usually on financial matters.
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