‘Deal with it’: Phlunté Riddle’s progressive Assembly campaign
by Steven Felschundneff | email@example.com
Anyone who meets California Assembly candidate Phlunté Riddle (pronounced fa-lon-tay) for the first time knows immediately she’s no wallflower.
Speaking to a small crowd of potential supporters last month in Claremont, Riddle joked that after decades working as a police officer her “outside voice” would more than adequately reach everyone in attendance.
The Pasadena resident spoke for an hour, introducing her background, platform, and outlining her goals if elected to the California State Assembly’s 41st District.
Riddle worked for the Pasadena Police Department for 30 years, first as an officer and then as the first Black woman the department ever promoted to sergeant and later lieutenant. She ended her career as an adjutant to the chief of police and the department’s public information officer.
“I was the first African American female to be promoted to sergeant and then lieutenant and those glass ceilings are tough,” Riddle said. “But once you do it you can see other women coming behind you. And not just African American, but all women. But the weight on your shoulders is so heavy because if you mess up, they don’t get the chance right away.”
It wasn’t all smooth sailing. But every time she thought about quitting police work there was somebody there to support her, she said.
When she applied to be in the homicide division, the male sergeant in charge told her that investigations often went all night and wondered how Riddle planned to take care of her children.
“I said ‘Sir, who takes care of these guys’ kids?’” referring to the male officers in the homicide department. “Their wives take care of their kids,” the sergeant said. She assured him her children would be just fine. “I have a husband and we have a support system,” she said. “You don’t show up one time, you’re out,” the sergeant replied.
“So I had an unfair demand on me,” Riddle told the crowd in Claremont. “But you do it.”
From 2016 until 2019 she was Assembly member Chris Holden’s district director, during which time she assisted in the expansion of the College and Career Access Pathway program through which high school students can enroll in college and vocational courses.
According to Riddle, when Holden asked her to be on his staff, he wanted her to do what she does best: “Lead, talk to the community, collaborate, bring people to the table, be where I can’t be when I am in Sacramento,” Holden told her.
“Together she and Assemblymember Holden pursued solutions that work for expanding the Gold Line, mental health services, public safety and cleaner energy,” according to her campaign.
It was Holden who encouraged her to run for his seat in the assembly once he “termed out” in 2024, Riddle said.
In 2019 Riddle was appointed a Board of Juvenile Hearing Commissioner in the California Department of Juvenile Justice. She conducts pre-release hearings with young offenders to help them gain access to education and job training, as well as trauma-informed mental health treatment to reduce the risk of re-offending and ending up in adult prison.
Riddle earned her Ph.D. in psychology from Phillips Graduate Institute and has taught criminal justice as an adjunct college professor. She also leads her own consulting firm.
She has been married for 40 years and has three adult sons and six grandchildren.
“My sons had the advantage of having two parents that worked hard,” Riddle said. “Two good union jobs.”
Her single mother struggled to raise three daughters, working two jobs. The family moved often, but thankfully, always in the Altadena area, so she kept her friends and local connections.
She remembers thinking, “Why can’t we just stay in one place?” Later she wished that her mother had shared that the family moved often because they had no choice.
“I never understood it until I became an adult, that she was just trying to make ends meet, and if someone sold the property or the rent went up, we had to move,” Riddle said. “I watched my mom struggle. I watched her be resilient. I watched her make something out of nothing, but she always had such a generous heart.”
Riddle decided to run for Assembly after talking it over with her family, and a lot of talking to herself.
“[I] decided that I was going to do it because we have an opportunity to do some big things in California, to do some big things here in this district, and you need people who have a solid foundation,” she said. “What I don’t want is to see someone, anyone, get into that particular office and not uphold early childhood education with wraparound services, I am talking preschool.”
She wants to work with state-funded regional mental heath agencies to ensure if a child needs services that child doesn’t have to wait until kindergarten, because the brain is most active between 3 and 5.
“I know what it means when a child doesn’t get that early start with services after school,” Riddle said. If someone claims these early childhood mental health programs are too progressive, Riddle reminds them, “We are talking about our children.”
“Well, I am just going to let you know, progressive means for progress, and I am for progress.” Riddle said. “And I am going to do everything I can to ensure that our babies get a good start. Because being incarcerated is a lose-lose for all of us. And I don’t want to see one more person become a victim when they don’t have to be. So deal with it, that’s the real Phlunté.”
She said that effectively fighting climate change may mean getting people out of cars, but that will not happen until using public transportation is safe and dependable. She added that part of that equation will involve funding the light rail (formerly the Gold Line) through to Claremont and Montclair.
“Climate change is critical; we’ve got to get this right,” she said. “The governor has a very ambitious drive for 2035. But how are we going to get there if we don’t increase our rapid transportation system? The Gold Line.”
Riddle says she is 100% behind Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass’ state of emergency over homelessness.
“I have seen an increase of families with children in cars,” she said. “I have seen veterans sleeping in bushes. And the fastest growing population of homeless people right now are senior women. We have to get people off of the street and we have to do it with an urgency and with care.”
She supports the permanent supportive housing model that strives to match the individual to the services they need while also providing an apartment. This housing also includes an on-site manager, so if a resident is having some type of crisis that person can quickly receive needed help.
During Riddle’s campaign for state senate eight years ago questions arose about her commitment to the LGBTQ community and reproductive rights because she was an adjunct professor at Biola University, which is a Christian school.
“Biola University’s position on marriage affirms the goodness of sexual relationships as designed by God to be expressed within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman,” reads a passage of the handbook. Under the heading, “God’s sacred value for life,” it reads, “human worth begins with the recognition that conception marks the start of human life and full personhood.”
Riddle no longer works at Biola. While there she taught criminal justice ethics and critical decision making; criminal justice internship; and unequal justice: race, class, justice and crime.
“I never discriminated against students because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Riddle said. “I never asked any student about their sexual orientation or gender identity. The University hired me to teach those three [criminal justice] classes as an adjunct professor. I did not know of or witness any mistreatment of students. I don’t recall anyone at the school talking about a ‘code of conduct’ that prescribed to mistreat any student because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or personal health care choices regarding abortions.”
Riddle said she strongly believes all educational institutions, regardless of whether they are religious schools, must accept students irrespective of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or personal beliefs about abortion.
“I know firsthand what it is like to be discriminated against and denied access to opportunities because of my race and gender,” she said. “I will continue fighting for rights and initiatives that promote inclusivity and work on policy that celebrates diversity.”
For more information on Phlunté Riddle and her campaign visit phlunteriddleforassembly.com.