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L.A. on the Record: The last-minute ballots swung left

A man in a suit jacket stands outside at a lectern next to a flag speaking into a microphone.
L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin, pictured in 2018.
(Amanda Edwards / Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to L.A. on the Record — our local elections newsletter. It’s David Zahniser, with a helpful assist from Dakota Smith. So let’s get started!

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin has a zippy phrase to sum up what’s happened with the city’s election results over the past week: “progressive political earthquake.”

Bonin was referring to the large number of left-of-center candidates who rose to first place as the ballots continued to be counted. Those contests, he said, tell an important story.

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Over the last 10 days, mayoral candidate Karen Bass pulled ahead of real estate developer Rick Caruso despite being massively outspent; labor organizer Hugo Soto-Martinez was leading Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, a two-term incumbent, by an eight-point margin; and community activist Eunisses Hernandez is on the verge of defeating Councilman Gil Cedillo, replacing him at the end of the year.

Hernandez, Soto-Martinez and Bass were in second place on election night but saw their fortunes rise as last-minute mail-in ballots flooded in. All three are solidly to the left of their opponents. And there are more.

City controller candidate Kenneth Mejia, an accountant who has called for major reductions in police spending, was leading Councilman Paul Koretz by a hefty 19-point margin. City attorney candidate Faisal Gill, who has promised not to enforce the city’s anti-camping ordinance, was maintaining his lead over former prosecutor Marina Torres. And civil rights lawyer Erin Darling had a five-point lead over municipal law attorney Traci Park in Bonin’s coastal district.

Bonin surprised many of his constituents in January when he dropped his own bid for reelection. But he’s been involved in the effort to elect a new generation of leaders at City Hall, campaigning for Bass, Hernandez, Soto-Martinez, Darling and Mejia. He has plenty of thoughts on the latest results.

First up: Bonin described the election as a repudiation of the California Apartment Assn. and the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which spent millions of dollars supporting their chosen candidates. In nearly every city contest where they committed significant sums, their favored candidates wound up in second place, Bonin said.

A second observation: Campaign mailers don’t mean much anymore. Human contact with voters is what counts, Bonin said.

Third: The City Council could soon move to the left on renter protections, strategies for fighting homelessness and efforts to replace police officers with mental health workers and other community services. But that won’t happen, Bonin said, unless the progressive candidates currently in first place win in the Nov. 8 runoff.

For now, Bonin and Councilwoman Nithya Raman regularly serve as a two-vote minority on the 15-member council, voting against proposals to make the sidewalks around public schools, day-care centers and other facilities off limits to homeless encampments. On a few issues, they’ve picked up support from Councilmen Curren Price and Marqueece Harris-Dawson.

“Being one is lonely. Being two means it’s easier to get to four [votes],” Bonin said. “And if you have four people, it makes it easier for others to create a progressive coalition” — one that can assemble an eight-vote council majority on key decisions.

Not everyone agrees with Bonin on his various takes. Several candidates who are now in second place have argued in recent weeks that they too are politically progressive. And Craig Lally, president of the Police Protective League, highlighted the fact that Caruso, Park, O’Farrell and another council candidate — attorney Tim McOsker, who has been endorsed by the police union — are headed into the runoff.

“The number one issue on voters’ minds is homelessness and these candidates all have credible plans to address this humanitarian crisis, and none of them will quit, like Mike Bonin,” Lally said in a statement.

Bonin is also looking ahead to the runoff. On the Westside, he’s now backing City Council candidate Katy Young Yaroslavsky, who has a nearly 20-point lead over attorney Sam Yebri. Bonin, however, isn’t planning to endorse in the race between McOsker and community leader Danielle Sandoval to represent a San Pedro-to-Watts council district.

State of play

BASS’ LEAD GETS BIGGER: With the latest tranche of ballots tabulated on Friday, Bass opened up a nearly seven-point lead over Caruso. Bass now has 42.9% of the vote, compared with Caruso’s 36.3%. That spread is not too far from the findings of a poll co-sponsored by The Times last month.

— THE FIERCE FIGHT FOR SECOND: The competition for second place in the city attorney’s race remains exceedingly close. Torres, the former prosecutor, now leads attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto by just 173 votes, according to the latest count. As you may recall from last week, Torres, Feldstein Soto and Deputy City Atty. Richard Kim — now in fourth place — have all been in contention for that spot.

COUNTY DEMS PICK BASS: The Los Angeles County Democratic Party has officially endorsed Bass for mayor, calling her “the only real Democrat” in the race. “This is a choice between a man who has spent his life profiting from the labor of working Angelenos, and a woman who dedicated her career to protecting those working families,” said party Chairman Mark J. Gonzalez. Caruso, who registered as a Democrat earlier this year, did not seek the group’s endorsement.

WAITING FOR RESULTS: Wondering why it’s taking so long to count the ballots? Michael Sanchez, who’s with the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, breaks it all down. And don’t worry — Sanchez said there were only about 74,100 left.

HERTZBERG SHOWDOWN: With a crush of mail-in ballots pouring in, West Hollywood City Councilwoman Lindsey Horvath narrowed the gap against state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, who remains in first place in the race to replace county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. Hertzberg was leading, 31.2% to 27.6%, according to Friday’s results.

THE OTHER HERTZBERG SHOWDOWN: Here’s yet another contest where the results flipped over the last 10 days. Hertzberg’s son, Daniel Hertzberg, initially appeared to be heading into a runoff against Republican Ely De La Cruz Ayao in his race for state Senate. Since then, the GOP candidate was bumped into third place and Democrat Caroline Menjivar is now less than two points behind the younger Hertzberg.

And in non-campaign news ...

COURTROOM CLASH: The first of three trials in the corruption scandal involving Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar began Tuesday, with prosecutors laying out their case against businessman Dae Yong Lee, who is accused of paying a $500,000 bribe to secure Huizar’s support for his planned 20-story residential tower. An attorney for Lee, also known as David Lee, said his client believed the money was going to pay legitimate consulting fees, not bribes. Lee’s lawyer also accused prosecutors of pinning their case on testimony from a political fundraiser who is a “liar and a thief.”

TRIAL TIDBITS: Prosecutors offered jurors a number of juicy details, including a secretly recorded phone conversation between Kim and former Huizar aide George Esparza. They also showed photos of a Don Julio tequila box filled with cash, which Esparza allegedly took to Huizar’s home in 2017. Esparza has told prosecutors that Huizar told him to hide the money but later pestered him about handing it over.

EMERGENCY AT CITY HALL: Los Angeles City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez was back at work Monday after collapsing in her City Hall office five days earlier. A Rodriguez aide said the councilwoman was transported to a hospital on June 8, one day after she was reelected by voters in her San Fernando Valley district. The aide said Rodriguez had experienced a seizure but was feeling better.

BIKE BATTLE: The City Council voted Tuesday to prohibit the sale and repair of bicycles on city streets. Backers said the new ordinance would deter bike thefts and eliminate “open-air bicycle chop shops.” Critics said it would unfairly target homeless people. The measure was approved on an 11-3 vote, with Bonin, Raman and Price dissenting.

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QUICK HITS

  • Who’s running the city? Still Eric Garcetti. His confirmation as ambassador of India awaits a Senate vote.
  • The latest in mayoral endorsements: Bass picked up the support of state Sen. María Elena Durazo and County Supervisor Hilda Solis. Durazo previously was supporting Councilman Kevin de León, who came in third in the June 7 primary. “Million Dollar Listing” star and real estate agent Josh Flagg urged voters to support Caruso, whom he described as his “good friend and mentor.” If you have an endorsement you’d like to flag for next week, please send it to us.
  • On the docket for next week: City employees will take their first Juneteenth holiday on Monday, thanks to a vote taken by the council just three days earlier. Federal courts will be closed too, so no corruption trial until Tuesday.

Stay in touch

That’s it for this week! Send your questions, comments and gossip to LAontheRecord@latimes.com. Did a friend forward you this email? Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Saturday morning.


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