Tuesday's Election in Compton: Old Guard Vs. New

Tuesday's election in Compton will offer voters a blast from the past, with the city's former mayor Omar Bradley trying to unseat Mayor Aja Brown four years after she first defeated him at the ballot box. At the heart of the race lies a tense generational struggle between Brown, 35, and the 59-year-old ex-kingpin, once dubbed Compton’s “gangster mayor.” It's also Brown’s to lose.  

Bradley's career has long been soiled by controversy and scandal. He was convicted in 2004 of misappropriating public funds. And though that conviction was thrown out on appeal eight years later, there were enough claims of impropriety over his tenure to sully his reputation for good. He’s also facing a retrial and could be convicted again.

Brown, on other hand, has received credit for restoring a sense of dignity to Compton. She’s vowed to turn it into the next Brooklyn and has some impressive successes to show for it. Crime is down, property values are up, and business is making a comeback.

But old habits die hard. And no matter how small, there is still some longing for the way things used to be. Bradley says the promise of revitalization has turned out to be less than it was cracked up to be and that City Hall has failed to take care of basic services under Brown. He also continually points to Brown’s status as an outsider because she wasn’t born in Compton. To truly understand this city, you must be from here, Bradley claims.

And so, while Brown is the clear favorite to win Tuesday, she was unable to avoid a runoff in the April primary. When asked if that frustrates her, she shrugged.

“My frustration is that Mr. Bradley is putting the city through this process yet again after the city expressed to him that they don’t want him to be mayor in 2013.”

She has no choice now but to face the city’s past -- both good and bad -- head on. But no matter what happens, she has a message for Bradley: Things have changed.

“He wants Compton to return to the place that it used to be. No place stays the same.”


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