Cedillo and Bray-Ali seek votes in each other's strongholds

Mount Washington residents Carol Jacques and her husband, Bill, backed incumbent Gil Cedillo in the Los Angeles City Council District 1 primary. The couple are voting for him again in Tuesday’s runoff election.

Jacques said Cedillo’s record on immigrant rights and focus on opening parks in the city helped persuade her to favor the longtime politician over challenger Joe Bray-Ali.

“It was a question of experience,” said Jacques, who moved to Mount Washington three decades ago.

Voters like Jacques are key to Cedillo’s campaign as he seeks reelection Tuesday and tries to shore up support in neighborhoods that have historically snubbed him.

The councilman dominated in the southern end of the district in the primary, winning the working-class neighborhoods of Pico-Union, Westlake and Chinatown, according to an analysis of election data by The Times.

Bray-Ali triumphed in the more affluent northern section of the district, winning precincts in Mount Washington and Highland Park.

With the election approaching, each candidate spent time last week focusing on the other’s base.

Cedillo held two meet-and-greet events at homes in Highland Park, a neighborhood where he also maintains a campaign headquarters.

Bray-Ali talked up his campaign to voters at a pool deck at an upscale residential building just west of downtown.

His campaign is still dealing with fallout from comments he posted on Voat, a website that features uncensored content from users, some of it racist.

His wife, Susan Wong, posted a YouTube video Thursday explaining that Bray-Ali didn’t cheat on her, despite his admission last month that he’d slept with other women between 2011 and 2014.

The couple were on “a break” at the time, Wong said, and she and her husband have “no secrets.”

A Lincoln Heights resident, Bray-Ali made a name for himself in Northeast L.A. with his Highland Park bike shop, which is now closed, and his multiyear fight for bike lanes on Figueroa Street.

Bray-Ali didn’t have the budget to run a districtwide campaign during the primary, he said in an interview this week.

The focus then was “where we can get votes, the easiest right now, where people already know me,” he said. For the runoff, Bray-Ali is knocking on doors in Pico-Union, he added.

That neighborhood is part of Cedillo’s base, an area where residents greet the politician with hugs because of his work on behalf of immigrants who are in the country illegally, said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

A former state legislator, Cedillo led efforts to grant driver’s licenses to those in the country without legal status and to provide college financial aid to young people who were brought to the country illegally.

“Cedillo is the champion for our community,” Salas said. Her group’s political arm has endorsed him.

Cedillo received 49% of the vote and Bray-Ali got 38% in the March primary.

The incumbent has faced criticism from some neighborhood groups for failing to engage with constituents. Cedillo said his office has replaced staff members in the last six months and that residents can expect an “upgrade.”

Complicating his reelection bid is a pattern of low voter turnout in the areas that support him. Voters in low-income areas typically turn out less than those voters in more affluent areas.

The median household income in 2015 was $29,600 in Pico-Union and $29,000 in Westlake, according to a Times analysis of U.S. census data.

By contrast, the median household income that year was $62,000 in Mount Washington and $47,600 in Highland Park.

Fewer people voted in the March primary in Pico-Union than in Mount Washington, which had the highest turnout of any neighborhood in the district, according to The Times’ analysis.

Mike Trujillo, a Los Angeles-based Democratic strategist, said he believes that voter turnout in the primary fell along economic, racial and “tribal” lines.

“Voters want to vote for the candidate that’s most like them,” he said.

A Times analysis of voting patterns shows that Cedillo won many of the same neighborhoods that he also won in his 2013 City Council race against then-City Council aide Jose Gardea.

He also fared poorly in that 2013 election in some of the same areas that he lost in his recent primary.

The councilman acknowledged that winning over votes in the district's northern area is important.

“We have a strategy that goes districtwide,” he said. “You have to campaign everywhere.”

Times staff writer Sandra Poindexter contributed to this report.

dakota.smith@latimes.com

Twitter: @dakotacdsmith

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