Nithya Raman vs. David Ryu: Everything you need to know about L.A. council race

Los Angeles City Council candidates David Ryu and Nithya Raman
Los Angeles City Council candidates David Ryu and Nithya Raman are running to represent a district that stretches from Sherman Oaks to the Miracle Mile.
(Los Angeles Times)

The council race between Nithya Raman and David Ryu is a battle for the soul of progressive L.A. in a district that stretches from Silver Lake to Sherman Oaks to the Miracle Mile, taking in wealthy, majority-white neighborhoods like Hancock Park and Hollywood Hills.

Here is a rundown of the race:

Nithya Raman

An urban planner, Raman is a co-founder of a Silver Lake-based coalition to help homeless residents. She wrote a report for City Hall that found an “incredible gulf between the rhetoric and the reality” of how the city responded to homelessness. She also served as executive director of Time’s Up Entertainment, which grew out of the #MeToo movement.

Raman has worked to bring in younger voters and residents who felt disconnected from local politics, while also picking up endorsement buzz from celebrities such as Natalie Portman and Jane Fonda.

Grassroots activists with such groups as Ground Game LA and Democratic Socialists of America-Los Angeles have mobilized for Raman, who contends that Ryu has fallen short on housing, homelessness and issues involving police accountability. A Raman victory would represent a breakthrough for those activists at City Hall.

David Ryu

Ryu ran for City Council five years ago as an outsider, surprising the establishment by defeating the top aide to his predecessor, former Councilman Tom LaBonge. A former development director for a South L.A. psychiatric hospital and community mental health center, Ryu became the council’s first Korean American member.


After taking office, Ryu pushed for a ban on campaign donations from real estate developers, amid concerns about “pay to play” practices at City Hall. Although he repeatedly faced pushback, he eventually won passage of new donation limits, which some critics said did not go far enough.

In the runoff campaign, Ryu has raised more than $595,000, picking up endorsements from the county Democratic Party, city employee unions and some tenant advocates. But Raman has outpaced him financially, collecting more than $680,000.

The state of the race

In some ways, the race has become a microcosm of the larger divide within the Democratic Party over progressive issues.

While Raman has picked up the backing of Bernie Sanders and Sunrise Movement Los Angeles, an activist group fighting climate change, Ryu has carved out support from establishment Democrats, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Raman, 39, has spoken out against laws that “criminalize” homelessness and called for a network of community access centers to assist unhoused people. She has proposed a plan to cancel the rent debt of L.A. renters and argued in favor of making the LAPD a “much smaller” armed force, with many of their duties shifted to other workers.

Ryu, 45, has touted his push to bring hundreds of homeless shelter beds and nearly 250 units of supportive housing to the district. He backed the creation of a $100-million renters’ relief fund at City Hall and an expansion of state tax credits for renters. He also advocated for a blanket ban on evictions, which did not receive enough votes for passage.

While Ryu says he supports reimagining public safety, he contends that Raman’s campaign is powered by “radicals” who are seeking not simply to reform the LAPD but abolish it, leaving Angelenos vulnerable to violent crime. He also highlighted remarks from Raman supporters saying police work in tandem with the Ku Klux Klan.

Raman’s campaign called Ryu’s focus on her supporters “cheap” and “distasteful.” Raman also said Ryu should disavow the financial support he has received from the Police Protective League, the LAPD officers’ union.

In the wake of the protest movement over George Floyd’s death while in Minneapolis police custody, Ryu pledged not to take donations from police unions. By then, the league had spent nearly $45,000 on his behalf.

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