All of which may prove only that Vincent has more finesse than his opponent, who is famous for rubbing people the wrong way and equally famous for not caring about it. Floyd once cursed out a reporter who criticized him for tossing an empty paper cup into the bushes outside the state capitol; his conversation is laced with epithets like ”son of a bitch,“ and he doesn‘t hesitate to characterize Vincent as a ”walking felon.“ Yet the crusty Korean War vet did garner some positive press in ’99 for being the dramatic deciding vote in a piece of anti-gun legislation authored by Wally Knox. Floyd had always abstained from voting on such bills, but in the wake of the Columbine High shootings he stood up and confessed his change of heart to the entire Assembly. ”For over 20 years around here, I never spoke one time on any issue relating to guns,“ he said. But he said the Columbine shootings brought back vivid memories of the war and the smell of death, and the assemblyman concluded that, ”I am willing to not only vote for everything, I‘ll co-author every gun bill that comes along.“
Vincent, for his part, stood against the bill and incurred the wrath of some folks in his district, including Inglewood’s Coalition for Drug & Violence Prevention and Najee Ali of Project Islamic Hope. But Floyd‘s new attitude is in sharp contrast to the one he had in 1998, when he refused to vote on a bill banning assault weapons because its author, Don Perata, failed to support a pet Floyd bill. Floyd gleefully and rather unfortunately described the move as ”payback time.“ Vincent, meanwhile, grew infamous in 1998 for taking the lead in trying to repeal California’s sweeping anti-smoking laws that banned smoking in bars and gaming clubs.
If both men lack moral backbone, Vincent has at least been consistent over the years in trying to build bridges with Latinos. As Inglewood mayor, he helped Jose Fernandez win a City Council seat, the first Latino in the city‘s history to do so; he also instituted a Cinco de Mayo celebration and a yearly Hispanic Fiesta. Modest efforts, but ultimately more than black officials in cities such as Compton and Lynwood, which struggle with grave black-Latino tensions, have done. As assemblyman, Vincent created a Community Development Financial Institution in Inglewood, a sort of credit union for small businesses that allows them to make loans from a shared pot of funds. He’s even made some inroads into organized labor, traditionally Floyd‘s biggest base of support -- his extensive endorsement list includes several local chapters of the SEIU, as well as a coalition of its retirees.
But Floyd dismisses Vincent and his accomplishments -- and he uses that term loosely -- as too parochial. ”He’s still voting for Inglewood, and that‘s marvelous,“ says Floyd caustically. ”But when you come to the Legislature, you’ve got to vote for more than that. You‘re voting for a lot more people than what’s in a city. I got no time for that kind of thinking.“ Vincent says he has no time for Floyd, and doubts that the denizens of the 25th will either. He does promise that people who haven‘t seen Floyd’s face yet will be seeing it soon. ”He sends me mailers,“ Vincent notes dryly, ”but it would be hard to send him one.“ Here‘s hoping both candidates put their best faces forward.