EXCLUSIVE: Larry Thompson, the veteran entertainment attorney/personal manager/film producer, wants to add the additional title of U.S. Congressman. Thompson is entering the race in California’s 37th District, and will run as an Independent against 4-time incumbent Karen Bass.
It won’t be easy, and he knows it: Bass is a Democrat and the district — which includes 738,000 residents and encompasses both the new Disney/Fox in Century City and Sony Pictures in Culver City– has traditionally been a Democratic stronghold. The primary election will be March 3, 2020 and the top two candidates from any party will vie for the seat in the November 3, 2020 election.
“People have asked me, why would anyone spend their time, money and reputation, trying to fight an uphill battle,” Thompson told Deadline. “When you feel as strongly about something as I do this, you disregard the odds and go for it. I’ve given many interviews to the entertainment trades, but I think this is the most important interview I’ve done.”
Through his Larry A. Thompson Organization, the 75-year old Thompson has managed the career of over 200 actors, produced 20 TV movies, five features, two TV series, 12 TV specials and numerous pilots. These include the Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton biopic Liz & Dick with Lindsay Lohan and Grant Bowler, And The Beat Goes On: The Sonny and Cher Story, Lucy and Desi; Before the Laughter and The Woman He Loved, about the romance between the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. He was inducted into the Personal Managers Hall of Fame in 2016, and given the Seymour Heller Award for Lifetime Achievement in Talent Management.
While Thompson has never run for office before, he believes that 50 years as an advocate for Hollywood talent as a lawyer and manager has given him a skill for enhancing the lives of those clients. “Now, I want to be a representative of the people and do those kinds of things for them, giving them a voice and empowering their lives,” he said.
The 37th Congressional District includes many neighborhoods West and Southwest of Downtown Los Angeles, touching Culver City, Inglewood, Mid City, West LA, Ladera Heights, Crenshaw and Baldwin Hills. The district is ethnically diverse: 40% Latino, 25% African American, 25% Caucasian and 8% Asian. Thompson believes that too many of them vote Democrat out of habit, without giving it enough thought. “People trust someone to take care of them, but sometimes when you trust for so long, the people you trust are really not the ones you should be trusting,” Thompson said.
Thompson, who hails from Mississippi, tells a story he remembered that he said stuck with him and made this ambition an inevitability for him.
“When I was a teenager, something happened I never forgot in my life,” he said. “Old man Harrison had a big plantation he grew cotton on, and many black families in the area worked as sharecroppers. They all had 40 acres and lived in houses that were really shacks. They would shop at his general store for coffee, sugar and what they needed to tend their crops. At the end of the year, old man Harrison would come out on the plantation porch and say, ‘today’s settlement day. I went to Memphis and sold everybody’s cotton.’ He had this big ledger book and said, ‘here’s how much we collected.’ Everybody was screaming, and he said, ‘Felix, come up here and bring your two boys.’ Felix was one of the older gentlemen and everybody looked to him. He said, ‘we took the cotton you and your boys picked and got $3000. During the year, your family used the store and spent $2400. That leaves $600 dollars I owe you.’ He said, ‘I’m going to give you your $600. Or…’ And then from around a corner, this guy comes out with a wheelbarrow stacked high with $1 bills. He said, ‘Felix you can have the $600 check or you and your boys can have all the money you can take out of that wheelbarrow. I’m 13, and I remember thinking, Felix, don’t take that money. Sure enough, he and his boys grabbed as much as they could carry and walked away. He didn’t get but $210 in dollar bills. He was happy, he had cash, a place to live for another year. My heart broke and I saw first hand what racism was about and how people can treat uneducated people and abuse and victimize them. I swore someday i would do something to help.
“I believe that the Democratic Party has treated both Latino and African American voters just like old man Harrison treated Felix on that plantation,” Thompson said. “You vote Democrat, you don’t know why, but you’ve been told they’ll take care of you. I don’t think the Democratic Party has taken care of the impoverished. They talk a good game, but people are starting to wake up. I want to help them in different ways than political parties are doing.”
Thompson is launching a platform based on drawing together the private sector and religious organizations to help solve the homelessness problem in Los Angeles. He cited statutes in the enacted tax overhaul that created “opportunity zones” where businesses are incentivized to invest in neighborhoods where there aren’t enough businesses, to build up neighborhoods. He accused Representative Bass with spending too much time trying to impeach the president and repeal the tax law. “Once you become a career politician, you want to stay forever and she is not working for the constituency of the 37th as much as she is working for Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party.”
Thompson said he has raised $50 million in his career for productions and isn’t intimidated with having to raise campaign financing. He said he will use his own funds as a gap between what he raises and what is needed to win. He expects to continue running his business, but acknowledges everything is up in the air as the congressional run becomes his priority.
“The primary is in 90 days and until then I’ll be going full bore 24/7,’ Thompson said. “If I make it past the primary, I’ll do that again for the extended period of time until the election. I’ve got good people working for me and the business will be taken care of. If I win, and go to Washington often, that might be a more difficult to do,” he said of the company he formed in 1974.