COMPTON, Calif. — The city of Compton is close to electing a new mayor, and it's a crowded race with 10 candidates running to fill current Mayor Aja Brown's seat.
With 26-year-old frontrunner Cristian Reynaga on the verge of becoming Compton's first Latino mayor, this election has revealed racial division in his city.
With as much pride as he takes in having grown up in Compton, Reynaga is just as proud of his Mexican roots.
His aunt Josie and his grandmother Victoria migrated from Mexico in the 1970s. The two single mothers raised eight family members on a little ranch in Richland Farms.
"It taught me the importance of perseverance and taught me the importance of being dedicated," Reynaga said.
When his grandmother died of COVID-19 in December, Reynaga honored her by continuing the legacy she left in the community.
"My grandmother left behind a legacy of impacting people's lives, and that's when I decided to run for mayor, because my neighbors, the community that I was raised with, the kids that I went to school with, we all deserve better and I'm doing this for them," Reynaga said.
Shortly after throwing his hat into Compton's crowded race for mayor, outgoing Mayor Aja Brown endorsed Reynaga to take her place.
For him, it was a blessing being backed by someone he's considered a mentor since working on her campaign in 2013.
Unfortunately, Brown's support came with backlash. The Black community believed Brown should have endorsed another Black woman.
But the way Reynaga sees it, Brown chose him as a reflection of the city. Nearly 70% of Compton residents are Latino, but Compton has never elected a Latino mayor.
"I feel that I have a very strong responsibility to make sure that our Spanish speaking residents are heard," Reynaga said.
While standing in the middle of a mural depicting Cesar Chavez across from Martin Luther King Jr., Reynaga said it's a reminder that Compton's Black and Latino residents are fighting the same battle.
"We all have the same struggles here in the city, and we're here to work together," he said. "That's what I feel when I stand in between these awesome murals."
Mayor Brown passed him the torch to unite the two cultures, and Reynaga is following the footsteps of leaders on both sides who came before him.
As of Friday, Reynaga leads the city of Compton Primary Mayoral Election, with 31% of the votes. However, it takes at least 51% to win, so there will be a runoff election between Reynaga and Councilwoman Emma Sharif, who is in second place at 19%.
Reynaga plans to make Compton more business and resident-friendly by ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent on upgrading the city.
He also hopes to embrace the city's mixed cultured neighborhoods by improving safety and cleanliness on the streets and local parks.