“While it has been a great honor to serve as a member of the California State Assembly for the past four years, I have decided to resign from my post effective December 31, 2017. The reason for this difficult decision is that I am facing persistent health issues,” the 30-year-old Democrat said in a statement posted to his website.
“On December 18th, I underwent surgery for the fifth time this year. Although I expect a full recovery, my physicians advise that I will need an extended period of time to recuperate.”
Ridley-Thomas, D-Los Angeles, said he notified Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, of his plans late Tuesday “with great reluctance, but even greater respect for the office, which involves constant travel, an unrelenting schedule and high stress.”
“Unfortunately, at this point, I am no longer able to deliver the effort that you deserve,” he wrote in his resignation letter, which does not provide details on his condition. “When I resume public life, I intend to remain active in civic affairs, where my passion lies. Following recuperation, I will return to the work of political empowerment, millennial civic engagement and inspiring the next generation of leaders.”
Ridley-Thomas, a son of Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley- Thomas, represents the predominantly Democratic 54th Assembly District, which includes Westwood, Culver City, Crenshaw and Baldwin Hills. He was elected to the seat in 2013 after working for the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington, D.C., and serving as public policy director of the Senate Fellowship Program.
His father released a statement, saying their “family is dedicated to public service, and Avis and I are extremely proud of how our son, Sebastian, has represented California’s 54th State Assembly District and served as a role model for the greater African-American community and his generation. Yet we, more than anyone, have seen him struggle with health challenges this year, and we fully support his decision to step down from the state Legislature so that he can recuperate with complete rest, in accordance with his doctor’s orders.”
A special election will be held next year to fill Ridley-Thomas’ seat. No date has been set.
It will be the fifth special election in a roughly one-year period to fill a seat left vacant by a Southern California lawmaker.
Two other Los Angeles-area assemblymen — Democrats Raul Bocanegra of Pacoima and Matt Dababneh of Woodland Hills — recently gave up their seats after allegations of sexual misconduct that both men have denied. The election for Bocanegra’s seat will be held on April 3, with a potential runoff on June 5. A special election date has not yet been set to fill Dababneh’s seat.
Earlier this month, community activist Wendy Carrillo was elected to fill the seat of former Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, who won a special election on June 6 to replace Xavier Becerra, who left his congressional seat to become California’s attorney general after Kamala Harris was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016.
“My colleagues and I wish Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas all the best going forward as he deals with his health challenges,” Rendon said on Twitter. “The Assembly will continue to assist the residents of the 54th Assembly District until a new assemblymember is seated.”
Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chair Mark Gonzalez wished Ridley- Thomas a “speedy and successful recovery moving forward.”
“While we will learn more in time, we hope that Sebastian, his family and his loved ones take the time that they need to fully heal and recuperate,” Gonzalez said. “We want to thank Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley- Thomas for his years of service to his district and to the state of California while in the Assembly. We look forward to seeing his civic engagement in the years ahead.”
Gonzalez said the “timeline to fill the 54th Assembly seat begins at Governor (Jerry) Brown’s desk. He will set a date for a special election in 2018 and the process for the Democratic Party to endorse a candidate for the 54th Assembly District will follow suit.”
Candidates to succeed Ridley-Thomas include Steve Dunwood, a Democrat who worked in the White House and Department of Energy when Barack Obama was president.
“Our campaign is a home for progressives — women, people of color, the LGBT community, from the youth vote to seniors,” Dunwood said. “It is also a campaign for all entrepreneurs, labor union members and independent voters looking for a home and a voice. We are building a broad based campaign to bring our strong progressive voices to Sacramento.”
–City News Service
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