Replacing Yaroslavsky May Be Hottest Council Race : Politics: Unlike the ’93 campaign, most incumbents are not expected to face strong challenges this April.


Two years after the makeup of Los Angeles city government was dramatically altered by a new crop of lawmakers, voters this spring will decide who represents eight of the City Council’s 15 districts.

But unlike the spring of 1993, when a new mayor and four new council members were elected, the looming municipal elections are expected to produce few major surprises.

“This seems completely unlike the last election, when we saw many incumbents who had tight (races),” said Howard Gantman, an aide to Councilwoman Rita Walters, who was reelected two years ago.

This year’s primary election is April 11; if needed, a runoff election will be held June 6.


In 1993, two seats opened up when veteran council members did not seek reelection, and then two incumbents were defeated. This year, only one seat is open. And for the most part, incumbents who will be on the ballot begin their races as reelection favorites.

The pending races are for the council’s even-numbered districts, which normally would mean elections in seven of the 15 districts. But this year’s contests also include the 5th District seat previously held by Zev Yaroslavsky, who was elected in November to the County Board of Supervisors.

Yaroslavsky’s departure means his office will be up for grabs two years earlier than scheduled. The presumed front-runners in the race are his wife, Barbara, and former Los Angeles School Board member Roberta Weintraub. The district runs from Yaroslavsky’s base--the Fairfax district and Westwood--to Sherman Oaks and North Hollywood--communities where Weintraub, a longtime favorite in the San Fernando Valley, is expected to do well.

That race is only one affecting the Westside.


In the 10th District, Councilman Nate Holden will seek reelection to the seat he has held since 1987. He is expected to face several challengers, including businessman Stanley Sanders, a longtime city commissioner and unsuccessful candidate for mayor in 1993.

Holden, also a former mayoral contender, has the advantage of incumbency in his bid to continue representing a district that runs from Koreatown west along the Santa Monica Freeway to Roberston Boulevard. But Sanders, notwithstanding his sixth-place finish two years ago in a crowded race for mayor, established himself as an energetic campaigner and could prove formidable in a more focused and less costly race for the council.

In other races, incumbents are not likely to face similarly well-known challengers. But that doesn’t mean they are taking reelection for granted.

As one incumbent put it: “Everyone is taking this election seriously.”


Ruth Galanter, the 6th District incumbent, said she intends to wage an aggressive campaign even though her opposition may be limited to candidates who are virtually unknown or who previously challenged her unsuccessfully. Galanter, first elected in 1987, is seeking a third term to represent a district that stretches from the Crenshaw area to Venice and Mar Vista.

“Every election is important,” she said. “And I have learned, in my district especially, that you should take your constituents very seriously.”

In the 4th District, longtime council President John Ferraro seems likely to face only nominal opposition to win reelection in the district he has represented since 1966. Ferraro’s district runs roughly from Hancock Park to Silver Lake.

In the 8th District, which encompasses much of South-Central Los Angeles, freshman incumbent Mark Ridley-Thomas may face more challengers than entrenched incumbents like Ferraro. But the first-term councilman is seen as a strong bet for reelection unless some new--and politically well-connected--rival emerges.


One City Hall pundit said, “To beat Mark, it’s got to be someone backed by (Democratic Rep.) Maxine Waters,” a longtime power in central city politics. The official added, “I don’t know of anyone who is going to have that.”

In the Eastside’s 14th District, incumbent Richard Alatorre is expected to cruise to reelection, with no opponents so far emerging.

And in the San Fernando Valley, incumbents Joel Wachs and Hal Bernson also will seek reelection.

Candidates will have from Jan. 11 to Jan. 17 to file their declarations of intention to seek office. Nominating petitions must be submitted between Jan. 21 and Feb 4.