Former Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon, who saw his convictions for perjury and voter fraud thrown out two months ago, has another curve ball in store for the San Fernando Valley: He's running for Congress.
The announcement sets the stage for a potentially nasty Democrat-on-Democrat showdown in the June 7 primary. Alarcon, who lives in Mission Hills, said he would be a better representative than Cardenas, who has been in Congress for roughly three years.
Alarcon also called on Cardenas to explain to his constituents what's happening with a federal investigation that caused at least one of the congressman's staffers to receive a grand jury subpoena last year.
"I have to be very frank and say, people have a lot of concerns about the pending investigation," Alarcon said.
Last year, Cardenas turned down The Times' interview requests to discuss the grand jury subpoena. On Friday afternoon, Cardenas campaign spokesman Josh Pulliam pointed out that Alarcon lost his 2012 bid for Assembly by double digits.
“The voters have already spoken on this matter and sent a clear message – they don’t want Richard Alarcon in public office,” Pulliam said in an e-mail.
Cardenas and Alarcon are both veteran Valley politicians. Cardenas was elected to the state Assembly in 1996 and joined the City Council in 2003. Alarcon spent eight years in the state Senate and 11 years on the council.
Alarcon, who described his entry into the race as "last minute," would probably face an uphill climb against a well-financed incumbent. Cardenas started the year with $182,458 in his campaign account.
Nevertheless, the announcement shows how much has changed since 2014, when a jury found Alarcon and his wife guilty of lying about where they lived so that he could run for a City Council seat.
The felony convictions rendered Alarcon ineligible to run for public office again. But in January, justices in California's 2nd District Court of Appeal threw out the convictions against Alarcon and his wife, saying the judge in the case had given improper jury instructions.
The attorney general's office declined to appeal that decision to the state Supreme Court.
In the hours after he was cleared, an elated Alarcon said he had no intention of running for another office. But on Friday, he said constituents in Cardenas' district had repeatedly asked him about the federal grand jury's activities in the Valley.
Last fall, several staffers to City Councilwoman Nury Martinez received subpoenas to appear before the grand jury to discuss her 2015 campaign. The Times reported in January that some of Martinez's campaign contributors -- those who gave $5 or $10 -- had been called before the grand jury or interviewed by FBI agents.
Statements on file with the Federal Election Commission show Cardenas' campaign spent $231,470 on legal services from five Los Angeles law firms in 2015. Of that, about $125,000 was paid between mid-October and late November.
Four of the law firms specialize in white-collar crime.
Alarcon's announcement only adds to the ongoing sense of upheaval in East Valley politics. Los Angeles City Councilman Felipe Fuentes, in a surprise move, announced this year that he would not seek a second four-year term.
Meanwhile, former Democratic Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra is trying to oust Assemblywoman Patty Lopez (D-San Fernando), who defeated him in an upset in 2014.
Three others also have filed to run for Cardenas’ seat, all of them Democrats: community advocate Benny “Benito” Bernal, retired military officer Joseph “Joe” Shammas and David Z. Guzman.
Zahniser reported from Los Angeles, Wire from Washington, D.C.