L.A. County voters: Baffled by those other races on your ballot? Here’s a rundown
The battle for the Democratic nomination for president has been the biggest focus for many voters this Super Tuesday. But in Los Angeles, voters are also weighing in on a slew of local candidates and issues.
Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey is seeking to fend off two challengers emblematic of a nationwide movement to elect more-progressive prosecutors — former San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascon and public defender Rachel Rossi — in what has been billed as one of the most important law enforcement elections in the country. The race is considered a test of whether Los Angeles is ready to embrace a model of criminal justice policy that is focused more heavily on rehabilitation than punishment.
Gascon coauthored Proposition 47 — the controversial law that reduced a number of felonies to misdemeanors — and has been a leading figure in the push to divert defendants in low-level and nonviolent crimes to receive services rather than prison. Rossi has run on a platform calling for prosecutors to stop criminalizing homeless and mentally ill defendants.
Lacey, the two-term incumbent, is the most experienced candidate and is seen as the more traditional “tough on crime” style of prosecutor. She has also advocated on behalf of mentally ill defendants through a number of diversion programs during her tenure, but she is often criticized for her office’s refusal to charge police officers in questionable use-of-force cases.
Seven candidates are seeking to replace outgoing county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in a district that stretches from Culver City to Carson: attorney Jake Jeong; state Sen. Holly Mitchell; social entrepreneur Jorge Nuño; former L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry; business owner René Rigard; Carson Mayor Albert Robles; and L.A. City Councilman Herb Wesson. Homelessness, rising housing prices and gentrification are the dominant issues in the district, which has the largest homeless population in the county.
County Supervisors Janice Hahn, whose district includes the South Bay and San Pedro and stretches east to Diamond Bar, and Kathryn Barger, whose vast district includes Lancaster, Santa Clarita, San Dimas and Pasadena, are campaigning to keep their seats on the board. Hahn is being challenged by attorney Desiree T. Washington, while Barger is facing off with educator Darrell Park and Sierra Madre Mayor John C. Harabedian.
Los Angeles City Council
Several seats are in play on the Los Angeles City Council. In a Crenshaw-to-Koreatown district, voters could decide who will replace termed-out Councilman Herb Wesson.
Longtime county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is widely seen as a front-runner in that race, which pits him against former city commissioner Aura Vasquez, attorney Grace Yoo, community activist Channing Martinez and activist Melvin Snell. Rivals of Ridley-Thomas have been running to his left, calling for such measures as free bus and train fares and new restrictions on oil drilling in L.A.
L.A. voters are also weighing in on who will replace termed-out Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents an Eastside district that reaches from downtown to Eagle Rock.
Former state Senate leader Kevin de León is vying for the seat, along with former marketing executive Cyndi Otteson, high school counselor Raquel Zamora, school board member Mónica García and educational nonprofit founder John Jimenez.
De León, who has dominated fundraising in the race, has touted his work in Sacramento to protect the environment and immigrants, but has faced criticism for refusing to sign a pledge to serve his full term if elected.
In another district that stretches from Sherman Oaks across the Hollywood Hills to Silver Lake, Councilman David Ryu is fighting to keep his seat against screenwriter Sarah Kate Levy and nonprofit leader Nithya Raman, who argue the councilman has fallen short in efforts to fight homelessness.
And in the northwestern stretches of the San Fernando Valley, Councilman John Lee is facing a rematch against college educator Loraine Lundquist, who lost to Lee in a special election last year. Although the race is nonpartisan, Democrats are hoping a bigger turnout will boost Lundquist, who is a Democrat, in her bid against Lee, who switched from Republican to no party preference.
Council members Paul Krekorian and Nury Martinez, who represent parts of the San Fernando Valley, are also seeking reelection on Tuesday, as is Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, whose district covers part of South Los Angeles.
Krekorian is facing attorney Ayinde Jones and artist Rudy Melendez; Martinez is running against music studio owner Bill Haller and community advocate Benny Bernal. In the South L.A. race, none of Harris-Dawson’s challengers made it onto the ballot, but three have qualified as write-in candidates.
Four out of the seven seats on the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education are in play. Those races could swing the direction of the district: whether it becomes more or less willing to authorize new charter schools or to push for priorities of the teachers union, such as higher salaries and increased school staffing. Charter supporters and the union have spent heavily on the race.
Three union-leaning incumbents want to hold on to their seats. A fourth seat, representing South L.A. to the L.A. Harbor, is open because board President Richard Vladovic will be retiring due to term limits.
County ballot measures
Los Angeles County voters will also decide whether to pass Measure R, which would secure power for the Los Angeles County Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission to subpoena witnesses and documents during their investigations. It would also authorize the commission to develop a plan to reduce jail population and reinvest savings into other preventative services.
And voters will weigh in on Measure FD, a parcel tax to help fund the L.A. County Fire Department. Only voters who live in areas served by the county Fire Department, which include unincorporated county areas and 58 cities that contract with the county for fire protection and emergency services, can cast ballots on the measure.
Times staff writers David Zahniser and Alene Tchekmedyian contributed to this report.
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