In Eastside runoff, L.A. councilman endorses colleague's opponent

A Los Angeles city councilman, in a rare move, snubbed a colleague Thursday by endorsing his opponent in next month’s runoff election.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell backed Joe Bray-Ali over Councilman Gil Cedillo in next month’s District 1 election, saying in a statement that the challenger, a 38-year-old bike activist, would be “an independent voice at City Hall.”

Council members in recent years have generally supported one another at reelection time, often even helping with fundraising. On Wednesday night, City Council President Herb Wesson hosted a fundraiser for Cedillo at a downtown Los Angeles restaurant.

Cedillo, 63, is seeking a second term representing District 1, which takes in several northeast neighborhoods and stretches down to Chinatown and Pico-Union.

The former state senator and assemblyman failed to garner more than 50% of the vote in last month’s primary, sending him into a runoff with Bray-Ali, a former field deputy for a state legislator.

Cedillo campaign spokeswoman Helen Sanchez suggested Thursday that Bray-Ali was a hypocrite for celebrating his endorsement from O’Farrell.

“He’s running as an outsider, but he’s touting an insider endorsement,” Sanchez said. “He’s raging against the machine but making a big deal of getting endorsed by City Hall insiders.”

Thursday’s endorsement fuels an already tense race between Bray-Ali and Cedillo in the largely Latino district.

On primary election night, Cedillo said his lead showed that voters were rejecting his rival’s “trendy, hippy, hipster proposal and agenda.” He later said he regretted making those remarks.

Also Thursday, Cedillo’s campaign criticized Bray-Ali’s party affiliation history. Originally a Democrat, he became a Republican in 2012 and switched back in early 2016, according to a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.

In an interview, Bray-Ali said he had been disillusioned with the Democratic Party and switched parties.

But he disputed the Registrar-Recorder’s record, saying he believes he switched back to being a Democrat before last year. He said there could be an error with the county’s records.

Cedillo and O’Farrell’s districts each encompass portions of several Eastside neighborhoods, including Echo Park and Elysian Park. They also serve together on two City Council committees.

O’Farrell declined a request for an interview, saying through a spokesman that the endorsement speaks for itself.

The last time a council member endorsed a colleague’s opponent was in 2015, when Cedillo backed former county Supervisor Gloria Molina over Councilman Jose Huizar.

dakota.smith@latimes.com

Twitter: @dakotacdsmith

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