Clash of Compton: ‘Gangster Mayor’ Omar Bradley vs. Incumbent Pro Politician Aja Brown

Former Compton Mayor Omar Bradley wants his seat back. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Former Compton Mayor Omar Bradley wants his seat back. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Omar Bradley sits in a booth at the Compton IHOP and slides through photos on his iPhone of cracked streets, dead dogs and homeless people.

This is the vision of Compton that Bradley, 59, is trying to sell to voters in his longshot bid to regain the mayor’s job after a career tarnished by scandal: a city where the hype of revitalization doesn’t match the reality on the ground.

Compton has generated national attention for what many consider a remarkable turnabout in recent years. The crime and gang killings that for decades plagued the city had plummeted. Businesses are beginning to move back into the city, and property values are on the rise.

The upswing has elevated Compton Mayor Aja Brown’s image, with glowing profiles in national magazines. She has vowed to turn the south L.A. city into the next Brooklyn and has helped lure some of the city’s many famous sons and daughters, including Dr. Dre, Serena Williams and Kendrick Lamar, to help with this turnaround.

A generational clash: Gangster mayor vs. the next Brooklyn

Brown’s clean-cut image contrasts sharply with that of Bradley, who in 2004 was convicted of misappropriating public funds. That conviction was tossed out on appeal eight years later.

Brown, 35, is the clear favorite in Tuesday’s election, but Bradley has mounted an aggressive challenge, arguing that much of the Compton turnaround story is inflated and that Brown and City Hall have failed to take care of basic services. Once known as the “gangster mayor” — a moniker with which he now bristles that was based on his friendship with rappers like the late Eazy-E from seminal Compton rap group N.W.A — Bradley is banking on enough voters having fond memories of his previous tenure in office.

The race is, in many ways, a generational showdown, with voters choosing two distinctive visions of the city and two decidedly different candidates.

“She has professional training. She is open to the idea of marketing Compton as a place for people to come and live,” said Manuel Pastor, director for the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration at USC, who has been tracking the mayoral race.

Brown’s reelection bid raised around $142,000 in advance of the April primary. On the other hand, Bradley, who has filed no campaign disclosure reports, says he has little money and is campaigning mostly door to door and at churches.

Pastor and others see an irony in these two African Americans battling for the top job in Compton. Latinos are now the majority of residents in the city. But many of them are immigrants — legal and otherwise — who are not able to vote. So for both candidates, the key to victory likely will be winning over black voters.

“Even as the population has changed dramatically, the voting population has changed less so,” Pastor said.

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SOURCE: Benjamin Oreskes 
The Los Angeles Times