De Leon Looks to Avoid Runoff in L.A. City Council Race

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Rafu Wire and Staff Reports

After Tuesday’s election, former State Sen. Kevin de Leon was hoping to avoid a runoff in his bid to fill a vacant seat on the Los Angeles City Council, but county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas appeared destined for the November runoff in his bid for a second open council post.

With votes still being tallied on Thursday, de Leon was leading a five-candidate field vying for the District 14 post, and he was slightly over the 50 percent threshold of votes that would allow him to claim the seat outright and avoid a runoff. The seat is open due to Jose Huizar being termed out of office.

Kevin de Leon

De Leon had 53.74 percent (15,373), followed by businesswoman Cyndi Otteson (17.82 percent, 5,098), social worker Raquel Zamora (13.79 percent, 3,944), Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education member Monica Garcia (11.14 percent, 3,187) and nonprofit organizer John Jimenez (3.52 percent, 1,006).

All five had appeared at a forum at the Japanese American National Museum and expressed their support for the Little Tokyo community. If elected, Otteson would have been the first Asian American to represent the district.

Speaking to supporters at an election night rally Tuesday, de Leon talked about homelessness and made a pledge to end it.

“This leaves an indelible mark of shame … we can do so much better than that because we are better than that as a city,” de Leon said. “If we win outright tonight, I give you my word that I will roll up my sleeves and do everything that I can humanely possible to make sure that we provide dignity and respect to the tens of thousands … who are sleeping on our streets every night.”

In the District 10 race, Ridley-Thomas, whose campaign outspent his nearest challenger by hundreds of thousands of dollars, was leading the field, but was short of the 50 percent vote needed to avoid a runoff. He appeared to be heading to the November runoff with the second-place finisher, attorney Grace Yoo.

The outgoing 10th District councilman, Herb Wesson, is vying to fill the county Board of Supervisors seat being vacated by Ridley-Thomas due to term limits.

In that council race, Ridley-Thomas has touted his sponsorship of Measure H, the county ballot measure expected to generate more than $3.5 billion over 10 years to build supportive housing to combat homelessness. He is also a co-chair on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Council of Regional Homeless Advisors.

Ridley-Thomas served on the City Council from 1991 to 2002, so he can only serve for another four years, per the city’s term limits.

Yoo said she wants to focus on improving city infrastructure and public safety, and she said she would work with city staff and residents to be as transparent with her policymaking as possible. She also said she wants to improve city services and tackle any corruption issues that arise at City Hall.

Ridley-Thomas had 46.16 percent (13,133), followed by Yoo (24.39 percent, 6,938), former Board of Water and Power commissioner Aura Vasquez (18.57 percent, 5,284), human rights activist Melvin Snell (6.15 percent, 1,749) and community organizer Channing Martinez (4.73 percent, 1,347).

Yoo, who ran against Wesson in 2015, would be the first Asian American woman on the City Council if she wins in November.

The district includes much of central and South Los Angeles, including communities such as Koreatown, Mid City, Leimert Park, Arlington Heights, West Adams and Little Ethiopia.

In the 14th District race, de Leon said he wants to improve immigrant rights and local transportation. He said he wants to make zero-emission public transportation available for everyone, and he wants to make open space and green areas a priority. He also said he wants to make the streets safer by employing tailored policing to individual neighborhoods, either by increasing foot patrols or creating community policing.

De Leon, a former State Senate president pro tempore, ran an unsuccessful campaign for U.S. Senate in 2018 against longtime California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

The district includes Downtown, Boyle Heights, Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Glassell Park and Highland Park.

Other even-numbered council seats were also voted upon in Tuesday’s election, but all incumbents are poised to retain their council seats.

— In Council District 2, incumbent Paul Krekorian with 66.23 percent (18,229) easily bested laborer/artist Rudy Melendez (20.85 percent, 5,740) and attorney Ayinde Jones (12.92 percent, 3,556).

— In Council District 4, incumbent David Ryu was leading the three-candidate field with 46.13 percent (20,395), but it was unclear if he would earn the 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid the runoff. If he falls short, he will likely square off against Nithya Raman, a homeless nonprofit leader, who was running second with 38.98 percent (17,233), ahead of women’s advocate Sarah Kate Levy with 14.90 percent (6,587).

Ryu, who is seeking a second term, is the second Asian American and the first Korean American to serve on the council.

— In Council District 6, Nury Martinez with 71.60 percent (12,535) handily defeated community advocate Benito Benny Bernal (15.71 percent, 2,751) and music studio owner Bill Haller (12.68 percent, 2,220).

— In Council District 8, incumbent Marqueece Harris-Dawson ran unopposed.

— In Council District 12, incumbent John Lee (52.73 percent, 21,155) bested Loraine Lundquist (47.27 percent, 18,968), an educator and astrophysicist, and appeared to have won re-election without need for a runoff.

The election was a rematch from last year, when Lee won the seat vacated by Mitchell Englander with 52.1 percent to Lundquist’s 47.9 percent. Lee, who was Englander’s chief of staff, became the second Korean American and third Asian American to serve on the council.

Perry Places Third in County Supervisor Race

State Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and City Councilmember Wesson were heading for a November runoff in their race to replace termed-out Supervisor Ridley-Thomas in the county’s 2nd District.

Unofficial totals showed Wesson leading the field with 31.75 percent of the vote (55,978) to Mitchell’s 26.15 percent (46,105). Former City Councilmember Jan Perry lagged far behind with 11.93 percent (21,027).

Perry became a familiar face in Little Tokyo when she represented that area of Los Angeles from 2001 to 2013. She also ran for mayor in 2013.

Also running for supervisor were Carson Mayor Albert Robles (11.36 percent, 20,034), social entrepreneur Jorge Nuño (6.65 percent, 11,719), community advocate Jake Jeong (6.49 percent, 11,436) and investment advisor Rene Lorenzo Rigard (5.67 percent, 9,996).

In other county races, incumbent Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn retained their posts in the 5th and 4th Districts.

Barger bested two opponents, receiving 59.12 percent (145,974) to Sierra Madre Mayor John Harabedian’s 20.73 percent (51,180) and entrepreneur Darrrell Park’s 20.15 percent (49,739).

Hahn, a former member of Congress whose father Kenneth served as a county supervisor for 40 years, handily defeated Desiree Washington, a former prosecutor who now has a private business law practice, 75.84 percent (171,207) to 24.16 percent (54,541).

No incumbent county supervisor has been voted out of office since 1980.

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