Will charges against Curren Price shake up the Valley council race?

Imelda Padilla, left, and Marisa Alcaraz.
Los Angeles City Council District 6 candidates Imelda Padilla, left, and Marisa Alcaraz during a debate in Panorama City in March.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

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

Distrust of Los Angeles City Hall was a major theme in the June 27 special election to fill the former seat held by City Council President Nury Martinez even before City Councilmember Curren Price was charged with 10 criminal counts this week.

Now, the question is how much the allegations against Price will hurt the campaign of his deputy chief of staff, Marisa Alcaraz, one of the two candidates running in this month’s special election for the San Fernando Valley seat. Price has been a public supporter of her campaign and the two are closely tied since she’s championed many of his biggest policy initiatives.

Price was charged Tuesday with embezzlement, perjury and conflict of interest related to votes that he took on development projects and medical benefits his wife received from the city.

Price spokesperson Angelina Valencia-Dumarot said the council member looks forward to defending himself and is a “long-standing public servant who has given his life to the city of Los Angeles.”


On Wednesday, both Alcaraz and opponent Imelda Padilla were asked about the charges against Price — and about the larger issue of voter trust — at a candidate forum hosted by the Van Nuys Neighborhood Council.

Padilla noted that another council member was “falling into the limelight on corruption” and said it made her wonder, “What was the surrounding team doing to help reduce that from happening?”

For her part, Alcaraz told the audience that she was “very sad” to hear about the charges. She said she found out at the same time everyone else did Tuesday. “We have to let the justice system take place,” she said, echoing comments made by City Council President Paul Krekorian.

Alcaraz started working for Price in 2013, first as a policy director and later as deputy chief of staff. She has used photos of Price standing alongside her in campaign materials and last month sent out a mailer for a fundraiser hosted by the councilman.

By Thursday, she had removed Price’s name from her list of endorsements on her campaign website.

Padilla’s campaign, meanwhile, pushed out text messages to District 6 voters Thursday that showed a screenshot of Times headline about the charges against Price.


“We must STOP Marisa Alcaraz and vote NO to bringing corruption to the Valley,” Padilla’s campaign wrote.

With just two weeks left before the election, many district voters have already cast ballots, so the charges against Price may have less of an impact, said public affairs consultant Helen Sanchez, who isn’t involved in the election.

As of Friday, 6,947 mail-in ballots had been returned in the election, according to the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder’s office.

At the same time, “This is definitely a blow for Alcaraz. It’s an enthusiasm killer” for her campaign, Sanchez said.

Alcaraz and Padilla, a community advocate, were the top two vote-getters in the April primary for the District 6 seat. The district takes in all or part of the neighborhoods of Lake Balboa, Van Nuys, Panorama City, Arleta, North Hills, North Hollywood and Sun Valley.

Even before this week, the race had turned negative as both candidates sought to smear each other over their ties to various elected officials.

Padilla had featured Price, who at one point was mentioned in a FBI search warrant related to the corruption case involving former City Councilmember Jose Huizar, in a mailer attacking Alcaraz. Price was never charged in that case.


That mailer also tied Alcaraz to former City Councilman Richard Alarcón. At one point, Alcaraz worked for the San Fernando Valley council member, who was later found guilty of charges of voter fraud. However, an appeals court overturned the decision.

Meanwhile, Alcaraz has attacked Padilla over her relationship to Martinez, who stepped down last year after outrage over her racist and divisive remarks in a leaked audio tape. In one mailer, Alcaraz claimed that Padilla is “backed by the Nury Martinez political machine,” while another mailer noted that Padilla worked for Martinez several years ago.

Padilla is supported by Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Pacoima), who has been an ally to Martinez at points. However, Cardenas was among those who immediately called for Martinez to resign last year after the leak.

Typically, in elections where the two candidates have similar political viewpoints — as is the case with Padilla and Alcaraz— the attacks tend to be more personal because the candidates can’t go after each other over policy differences.

“I know that this campaign has gotten really dirty,” Padilla said at Wednesday’s forum. “And it’s probably going to get dirtier in the last two weeks.”

State of play

— THORNY VOTES AHEAD: Following the charges against Price, council members are also weighing their third suspension vote in three years. But this time around, they are taking a notably slower approach to that decision.


Krekorian started the process of suspending Price on Wednesday, but said his colleagues should first let Price respond to the charges. Council members should also listen to residents of Price’s South Los Angeles district, and carefully weigh the “real-world consequences” of a suspension on his constituents before casting their vote, Krekorian said.

— NEW NO. 2: After Price stepped down from his leadership and committee positions, Krekorian moved to make Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson the body’s new president pro tempore — a role that would put Harris-Dawson in a strong position to eventually take over as council president.

MORE PRICE ANALYSIS: Loyola Law School’s Jessica Levinson and The Times’ Dakota Smith discuss the Price allegations and the role of the city’s Ethics Commission at KCRW.

“EXTREMELY CONFUSING: And Scott Frazier casts some skepticism over the Price case over at his blog. “These are substantively different than other charges that we have seen in recent years.”

— MIGRANT BUS: While Mayor Karen Bass was in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, 42 migrants arrived at Union Station on a bus sent by Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas. L.A. was ready to welcome them, Bass said in a statement, because she and city departments had been “planning in the event Los Angeles was on the receiving end of a despicable stunt that Republican governors have grown so fond of” since shortly after she took office.

— NICE DIGS? The city of Los Angeles moved some homeless people into a motel that had been previously declared a “public nuisance” and had seen criminal activity, L.A. Taco reports.


— HOMELESSNESS UPDATE: Bass gave a six-month update about progress in the fight against homelessness during her administration, providing new numbers on Inside Safe and other initiatives.

— GUEST LIST: Per our recently returned public records request, a few interesting power brokers were invited to Bass’ first State of the City address in late April, including Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger, East West Bank CEO Dominic Ng, Dodgers President Stan Kasten, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav and Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel. (Zaslav, Spiegel and Kasten all RSVPed no. Ng and Iger did not respond, according to the list provided.)

— REMAKING THE COUNCIL? Close watchers of local governance reform efforts were probably aware that a small group of prominent academics has been quietly working on an independent report. The L.A. Governance Reform Project (led by Ange-Marie Hancock, Gary Segura, Raphael Sonenshein, Sara Sadhwani, Boris Ricks and Fernando Guerra) put out its interim recommendations Thursday. The scholars advocate increasing the size of the council to 25 from 15, with 21 members elected by district and four at-large members, among other things.

The council’s own Ad Hoc Committee on City Governance Reform had its last meeting before the July recess this week and will reconvene in August.

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Quick hits

  • Where is Inside Safe? Bass’ signature initiative to move people off the street went for the first time into the northwest San Fernando Valley district represented by Councilmember John Lee. The operation, which is the 20th since Bass took office, was carried out in Chatsworth.
  • On the docket for next week: The council is expected to vote on the president pro tem role for Harris-Dawson Tuesday. On Friday, Price’s suspension will be considered in the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee.

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