Dodgers
Plaschke: Vin Scully is a voice for the ages
L.A. Now

Sexual harassment suit fizzles as issue in Huizar re-election bid

'I don't care what scandal happened.... It's his performance that counts,' voter Denise Alvarez says of Huizar

For months, two of Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar’s opponents did their best to remind voters of the sexual harassment case filed against him.

Former county Supervisor Gloria Molina repeatedly mentioned the lawsuit, filed by a former Huizar aide, in her campaign mailers. On the campaign trail, she promised to provide “responsible leadership,” a phrase aimed at reminding voters of both the case and the Council’s decision to spend up to $200,000 on lawyers to defend Huizar.

The lawsuit was quietly settled last year. And on election day, the legal drama simply fizzled as an issue.

Huizar, who represents neighborhoods from downtown to Eagle Rock, overwhelmed second-place finisher Molina by a ratio of more than 2 to 1 after talking about other subjects: bicycle lanes, public parks, downtown development and his long-standing opposition to the extension of the 710 Freeway from El Sereno to Pasadena.

Typical was the opinion voiced by Boyle Heights resident Denise Alvarez, who discussed her support for Huizar outside a polling place on Wabash Avenue.

“I like him,” she said. “I don’t care what scandal happened recently. It’s his performance that counts.”

Former Huizar Deputy Chief of Staff Francine Godoy filed her lawsuit in 2013, alleging that he had asked her for sexual favors and retaliated against her when she refused. Huizar called those allegations malicious and false, but said he had an extramarital affair with Godoy for an unspecified period.

Godoy and Huizar reached an agreement last year to end the case at no additional cost to the city. But by then, Molina had entered the race.

Molina went on to criticize Huizar over Godoy’s salary, which grew from about $47,000 to more than $132,000 while working for him. She was joined in the race by social worker Nadine Diaz, a candidate who regularly brought up the Godoy case at debates and promised to restore the district’s “moral compass.”

Those efforts did not resonate with Huizar backers such as Josef Bray-Ali, a bicycle activist who had long been impressed by the councilman’s support for “road diets,” projects that reduce the number of car lanes to make room for bicycles. Bray-Ali promised last fall to rally bicyclists, pedestrian advocates and urban-planning types to Huizar’s side, saying road safety was far more important than the Godoy situation.

“He could have three more affairs … and I would still support the guy,” he said at the time.

On election day, Diaz pulled less than 5% of the vote, according to unofficial returns. Molina, whose career in Eastside politics spanned more than three decades, received less than 24% of the vote. Huizar, on the other hand, secured another 5 1/2 years in office.

Follow @DavidZahniser for more news from L.A. City Hall.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
90°