L.A. on the Record: Effort to recall Councilmember Kevin de León fails

Kevin De Leon at a rally
Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de León during his 2022 mayoral campaign.
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to L.A. on the Record — our City Hall newsletter. It’s Julia Wick, with help from Dakota Smith.

Friday was a good day for Councilmember Kevin de León.

Less than six months ago, it seemed highly unlikely that the embattled politician would finish his term. There were deafening calls for his resignation and equally loud threats to recall him from office. Now, his greatest political threat appears to be his 2024 reelection.

Despite all the talk, only one recall campaign was ever launched in the aftermath of the leaked recording. That bid was spearheaded by Pauline Adkins, an Eagle Rock resident who had targeted De León with three prior recall attempts.

Adkins had until Friday to collect the 21,006 valid Council District 14 signatures needed to trigger a recall election and turn them into the city Clerk. (Realistically speaking, she would have needed to turn in more than 25,000 signatures to have a cushion for those marked invalid.)


But Adkins told The Times on Thursday that she had failed to collect the necessary signatures and wouldn’t be submitting anything.

The recall’s failure is quite a bullet dodged for De León: Polling conducted in January among registered voters in his district found that 58% would support recalling him from office, compared with 25% who would be opposed and 17% undecided.

Because De León’s term doesn’t expire until December 2024, it’s possible that another recall attempt could come to fruition. But given that the primary election for his seat is in March 2024 and it takes months to move a recall forward, it seems unlikely.

To say nothing of the dwindling energy around such a goal, or the fact that most recall attempts fail.

And during the months that his foes were failing to gather the needed signatures or muster a cohesive campaign, De León was maintaining a ubiquitous presence in his district.

He has hosted raffles at senior centers, cut the ribbon at a new playground, secured millions in grant funding for his district and handed out thousands of boxes of food, at least some of which were helpfully stamped with his name and photo.


Who knows what that January poll would look like today, or how the numbers might further shift during the months it would take to qualify another recall effort.

“My North Star has always been improving the quality of life for the people I represent. Through thick and thin, our community remains focused on the important battles at hand like homelessness, strengthening our local businesses, and protecting working families,” De León said Friday in a statement. “Today’s outcome is proof that for my constituents, actions speak louder than words.”

Adkins cited a number of reasons for her failed signature gathering effort, saying that she had been threatened, abandoned by her volunteer political strategist and belittled as a “crazy old lady” and “Trumpster.” (As The Times previously reported, Adkins frequently circulated political messages from pro-Trump accounts on her Facebook page, making her an unlikely recall partner for the largely far-left activists who have been De León’s loudest critics.)

The heavy rain this year had also been “a horrible nightmare” for their signature gathering effort, she said.

“It was just one thing after another. But the bottom line is it was my failure and my choices,” she said. “I let the community down, big time.”

She does not plan to refile.

State of play

A DEVASTATING FALL: After five days of jury deliberations, Mark Ridley-Thomas was found guilty Thursday on federal corruption charges for extracting special benefits for his son from USC while voting in support of motions and a contract sought by the university. He faces the possibility of years in federal prison.


The felony conviction dictates Ridley-Thomas’ removal from his council seat — a role he had been suspended from since his October 2021 indictment. It also means that the city’s 10th Council District will once again be without a voting representative, at least for the time being.

If Ridley-Thomas had been acquitted, he would have returned to his seat at the completion of the trial, supplanting interim appointed Councilmember Heather Hutt.

But Hutt was appointed only to fill a “temporary vacancy” — a status that no longer applies since Ridley-Thomas’ removal is permanent.

Reappointing Hutt to the seat she’s held for the last six months will require a vote of the council, which is currently on its spring recess.

Council President Paul Krekorian called on his colleagues to do just that in a statement Thursday evening, saying constituents in the 10th District deserve to be represented “without further disruption and disenfranchisement.”

He also designated Hutt as a nonvoting caretaker for the seat in the meantime.

— REPLACING NURY: With the April 4 election for the City Council District 6 race next week, unions are stepping up their support for their chosen candidates.

Laborers Local 300 Small Contributor Committee reported this week that it spent more than $25,000 on TV ads to support candidate Imelda Padilla. And rival candidate Marisa Alcaraz announced that she has received the endorsement of Unite Here! Local 11.

MORE 2024: Former L.A. Department of Water and Power commissioner Aura Vasquez has filed campaign finance paperwork to jump into the Council District 10 race — a seat she also ran for in 2020. Councilmember Nithya Raman has also filed paperwork to raise money for her reelection in Council District 4, per city ethics.


HARBOR TROUBLE: The Daily Breeze’s Donna Littlejohn reports that Mayor Karen Bass’ first two appointments to the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners have drawn “mixed reactions” locally because neither former Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard nor Michael Muñoz live in port communities. They will replace commissioners from Wilmington and San Pedro, respectively, according to the Daily Breeze.

MAYOR’S OFFICE ROLES: Former campaign staffer Joey Freeman, who currently serves as Director of Policy and Budget Initiatives for the mayor’s transition, will now serve as deputy mayor of intergovernmental affairs, advancing the mayor’s agenda at the county, regional, state and federal levels.

Bernyce Hollins, who we previously mentioned has been leading budget meetings with city departments alongside Freeman, has been named senior director city budget. She previously served as a Chief Administrative Analyst for the City Administrative Officer.

And Krista Kline — previously the chief of staff to former Councilmember Mike Bonin — will now will serve as Bass’ director of legislative affairs.

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  • On the docket for next week: Council remains on recess through next week. The Council District 6 special election is on Tuesday.

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