L.A. on the Record: City Hall braces for Round 2

Voting center in Boyle Heights
Signs offer some cautionary advice on election day at the Boyle Heights Senior Citizen Center.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to L.A. on the Record — our local elections newsletter. It’s David Zahniser and Julia Wick here for your post-primary breakdown, with some help from Ben Oreskes and Dakota Smith.

On election night, Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez had reason to be pleased — or at least a bit relieved.

Four of the five councilmembers who were seeking reelection were leading their opponents by significant margins — Curren Price, Monica Rodriguez, Bob Blumenfield and Gil Cedillo.

Price, Rodriguez and Blumenfield were quickly declared winners. At the end of the week, Cedillo continued to hold a lead over community activist Eunisses Hernandez, outpacing her 52% to 48% — although with so many ballots left to count, he is not yet out of the woods.

Martinez, who led the 15-member body throughout the tumultuous COVID-19 era, had been keenly aware of the public’s dissatisfaction with the city’s handling of homelessness and other issues, telling one network that the public’s mood had reached a “boiling point.”


“I’ve never seen a more angrier electorate than this particular election,” she told CNN’s Ronald Brownstein, in a segment that aired on the eve of the election. The region’s political consultants were drawing similar conclusions, saying voter frustration was putting incumbents in danger.

One of them definitely still is.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell finds himself in dire straits as he’s set to compete in the Nov. 8 runoff against labor organizer Hugo Soto-Martínez in an Echo Park-Hollywood district. The latest vote count, released Friday, showed him narrowly trailing Soto-Martínez, an extremely bad spot for an incumbent.

Price, who handily defeated college administrator Dulce Vasquez, benefited from more than $450,000 in campaign activity by organized labor. Cedillo had even more help — nearly $1.3 million in independent spending, much of it by the California Apartment Assn. and several union groups.

That type of outsize spending was also at play in O’Farrell’s race but didn’t work.

Martinez, an O’Farrell ally, can’t be happy with the state of the councilman’s reelection battle. But she did have another piece of good news: Katy Young Yaroslavsky, whom she endorsed several weeks ago, had an especially strong showing in her bid to replace Councilman Paul Koretz.

Yaroslavsky, who spent six years as an aide to county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, arrived not just in first place but was also hovering just under 50%, a major feat in a competitive four-way race.

Votes are still being counted. If Yaroslavsky clears a majority, she will avoid the Nov. 8 runoff. If she doesn’t, Round 2 will be an extremely uphill climb for her opponent, attorney Sam Yebri.

Martinez declined to comment on the election results. So we’ll take a quick peek at a couple of other council races. (Again, a reminder — the votes are still being counted.)

In the hotly contested battlegrounds of Westchester, Venice and Pacific Palisades, eight contenders had been fighting for the future of coastal L.A. The top two vote getters were Traci Park and Erin Darling, who occupy different ends of the ideological spectrum.

Park had support from the city’s police and firefighter unions — and was active in the campaign to recall departing Councilman Mike Bonin. Darling, on the other hand, was favored by progressives and was running with Bonin’s endorsement.


In L.A.’s Watts-to-San Pedro district, attorney Tim McOsker is still expected to square off against community leader Danielle Sandoval in the race to replace Councilman Joe Buscaino.

Although McOsker has never run for office before, he knows his way around City Hall. He was chief of staff to Mayor Jim Hahn, who appointed Caruso to the city’s Board of Police Commissioners in 2001. Sandoval, on the other hand, knows her way around a neighborhood council, having served on panels in San Pedro and in Harbor City.

State of play

THE MAYORAL SHOWDOWN: As anyone who subscribes to this newsletter surely knows, real estate developer Rick Caruso will face Rep. Karen Bass in the runoff to succeed Mayor Eric Garcetti. Caruso held a two-point lead over Bass as of Friday. Here’s a look at the strategies that might play out in the runoff, from Julia and Ben. And here’s an analysis of Caruso’s success from Dakota Smith.

Two photos, one of a woman speaking into reporters' microphones, another of a man at a lectern.
Mayoral candidates Karen Bass, left, and Rick Caruso.
(Christina House, Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

CURIOUS HOW YOUR NEIGHBORS VOTED? This map reveals how Angelenos marked their ballots for mayor in various neighborhoods, based on partial election results.

MEJIA IN MOTION: It would be unfair to call city controller candidate Kenneth Mejia’s double-digit lead over second-place finisher Paul Koretz an upset, since he had been viewed as the frontrunner for a while. But it’s nevertheless a testament to the power of his insurgent grassroots campaign, which relies simultaneously on clever social media posts and old-school billboard ads.

GARCETTI AIDES FALL SHORT: Candidates who previously worked as aides or appointees in Garcetti’s administration had an especially bad night. Kevin James, former public works commissioner, trailed the pack of candidates looking to replace City Atty. Mike Feuer. Former speechwriter Reid Lidow failed to make the runoff in his bid for city controller. And former Public Works Commissioner Greg Good fell short in the race to replace Bonin.

DROPPING DEVELOPER DOLLARS: A city law prohibiting certain types of real estate developers from giving to L.A. city candidates went into effect Wednesday, just in time for the runoff campaign. Companies and individuals who have requested a zoning change, a tract map, a billboard district and many other types of planning approvals will be barred from donating directly to candidates, according to the Ethics Commission announcement.


— BUT THERE’S A HITCH: The reform measure, approved in 2019, will do nothing to stop real estate interests from spending big on independent campaigns that are carried out on behalf of their chosen candidates. Several did just that in the run-up to Tuesday’s primary. For example, a few companies sent six-figure donations to committees set up by the Police Protective League, the LAPD union that supports Caruso in the mayor’s race and Park in the coastal district represented by Bonin.

IT’S THE HOMELESSNESS, NOT CRIME: That’s the message to candidates from progressive journalist Harold Meyerson, who knows a thing or two about L.A. “What urban progressives can’t electorally survive is indifference to the public’s right to public space,“ he writes. “This is a fraught and tricky issue, as I’m acutely aware, but liberals ignore it at their own peril, and their hold on elective office ... if they do.”

HERTZBERG COMES IN FIRST (PART I): State Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) came in first in the race to replace Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl — and looks positioned to face his Kuehl-backed opponent, West Hollywood City Councilwoman Lindsay Horvath, in the runoff. Hertzberg, you may recall, has made a play for local office before, running in the 2005 mayoral election but placing third.

HERTZBERG COMES IN FIRST (PART II) Meanwhile, Hertzberg’s son, Daniel Hertzberg, was leading in the four-way race to fill the San Fernando Valley legislative seat that his father has represented since 2014. As of Friday, he appeared headed for a runoff against Republican Ely De La Cruz Ayao. The Daily News has a nice write-up on where things stand in that race.

A SEARCH FOR SPECIFICS: Now that we’re in Round 2, The Times’ editorial board, which endorsed Bass earlier in the spring, has some tart words for her and Caruso, imploring both candidates to “sharpen their arguments” and provide more specifics on how they’ll solve the city’s problems.

And in noncampaign news ...


— ‘CULTURE OF CORRUPTION’: The top official handling cybersecurity at the L.A.’s Department of Water and Power was sentenced to four years in prison for lying to investigators in the corruption probe of the utility’s billing woes. U.S. District Judge Stanley Blumenfeld Jr. said David Alexander, 54, was “part and parcel of the culture of corruption at the DWP.”

MORE MASKING? With COVID-19-related hospitalizations on the rise in Los Angeles County, public health officials have begun raising the possibility of a new indoor mask mandate, writes The Times’ Rong-Gong Lin II.

Small margins in city attorney’s race

If you live in L.A. and wonder whether your vote makes a difference, you might contemplate the race to succeed Feuer — and the super-tight competition among that contest’s top candidates.

Former prosecutor Marina Torres came in first on election night, with two other candidates duking it out for second place — and separated by the tiniest of margins.

At 1 a.m. on election night, civil rights lawyer Faisal Gill was leading Deputy City Atty. Richard Kim by just two votes. By 3 a.m., the two men were separated by 23. And on Friday, when the latest batch of election results was released, Kim had fallen to fourth place, with Gill in first.

Those figures now show Gill and Torres separated by 116 votes. If those numbers hold, voters will have the opportunity to choose from two very different visions for the city.

Torres ran on a straightforward law-and-order platform, promising to tackle gun violence and rising crime. Gill focused heavily on holding the LAPD accountable, signing a “no new cops” pledge and promising a 100-day moratorium on new misdemeanor filings. He also promised he would not enforce the city’s new anti-encampment law, calling it unconstitutional.


The race is so volatile that the candidate order could change yet again as more votes are counted. The next update is expected Tuesday.

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  • Who’s running the city? Still Eric Garcetti. His confirmation as ambassador to India awaits a Senate vote.
  • The latest in mayoral endorsements: The Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters endorsed Bass.

(If you have an endorsement you’d like to flag for next week, please send it to us.)

  • On the docket for next week: Hopefully nothing! The people of Los Angeles need at least a week off from all of this.

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