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Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas declares victory in 10th District

L.A. City Council candidate Mark Ridley-Thomas
L.A. City Council candidate Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks to reporters before voting at Hot and Cool Cafe in Leimert Park.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas declared victory over attorney Grace Yoo in his race to represent a Koreatown-to-Crenshaw district on the Los Angeles City Council, setting the stage for a return to City Hall after an 18-year absence.

While returns were still being tabulated, Ridley-Thomas held a commanding lead over his opponent Wednesday, with 61.4% of the vote compared to Yoo’s 38.6%.

In L.A.’s Silver Lake-to-Sherman Oaks district, urban planner Nithya Raman maintained a smaller but significant lead over City Councilman David Ryu, in a contest that has drawn nationwide attention from progressives looking to pull City Hall further to the left, according to the partial results.

The two sets of candidates were competing for the two seats just as L.A.’s political leaders confront a massive budget shortfall, a lingering pandemic and a frustrating homelessness crisis.

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Ridley-Thomas, 65, said he was “tremendously heartened” by the results, saying voters showed that they want someone in a “position of responsibility who knows what he’s doing and has demonstrated it over and over again.”

“I think it’s time to go to work and deliver on the commitments that I’ve made to work on my priority issue, namely homelessness, and to not allow it to take a back seat to any other policy agenda,” he said.

Because he has been on the council previously, Ridley-Thomas, an elected official for nearly three decades, is permitted to serve only a single four-year term.

Yoo, an activist who has challenged City Hall over real estate development and other issues, was mounting her second run for the seat but had been heavily outspent by her rival and his allies.

Raman, 39, waged an aggressive challenge against Ryu, propelled by an array of grass-roots activists on the left — Democratic Socialists of America-Los Angeles and Ground Game L.A., among others — combined with the financial might of writers, actors, directors and others in the entertainment industry.

If Raman retains her lead, she will be the first candidate to unseat a sitting council member since 2003, when former Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa ousted Councilman Nick Pacheco. In a statement, she credited her campaign’s 2,000 volunteers for making the council bid “a special collective effort.”

“Win or lose, we’re going to carry this community energy into building a more just, sustainable Los Angeles no matter what,” she said.

Ryu, 45, acknowledged that he was lagging in the partial returns. He said he had tried over the course of the campaign to tell voters about his work on anti-corruption measures and on homelessness, including the construction of new shelter beds and affordable housing units.

“I wanted to make sure I had the opportunity to finish what I started,” Ryu said. “Both of those were issues near to my heart.”

L.A. City Council candidate Grace Yoo talks with resident Michael Turner on election day.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

While Raman ran with the backing of Bernie Sanders, Ryu drew support from city employee unions, the county’s Democratic Party and high-profile but frequently more establishment Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

This was the first time in more than a century that Los Angeles conducted its regular municipal election in an even-numbered year, part of a push by the council to boost voter turnout and bring a greater share of younger, nonwhite and lower-income voters. Although turnout grew dramatically this year, the change did not upend the status quo at City Hall.

A majority of this year’s contests were decided in the March primary election, with four incumbents — council members Nury Martinez, Paul Krekorian, John Lee and Marqueece Harris-Dawson — winning their reelection bids. Former state Sen. Kevin de León, now a councilman, easily vanquished his poorly financed opponents in his bid to represent part of the Eastside.

Two contests went on to a second round: the battle between Ryu and Raman, waged in a district with wealthy neighborhoods such as Hancock Park and Hollywood Hills, and the contest between Yoo and Ridley-Thomas, which has been playing out in parts of South L.A. such as West Adams and Leimert Park.

L.A. City Council candidate Nithya Raman in Los Angeles on Tuesday night.
(Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)

In the latter contest, Ridley-Thomas ran on his decades of experience and his list of accomplishments, including the reopening of Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital and the passage of ballot measures to pay for public transportation and homeless services. An outspoken critic of Sheriff Alex Villanueva, he also touted his work as a police reformer.

Yoo, 49, worked to portray Ridley-Thomas as a career politician, someone who would immediately use the council office as a steppingstone for a mayoral bid. With the city buffeted both by a homeless crisis and an FBI investigation, one that has resulted in the arrest of two council members, Yoo argued that it was time for a fresh face in the council’s 10th District.

“My opponent has been in office for three decades,” Yoo said Tuesday night. “And the quintessential question is, are we better off? And the answer is, no, we are not.”

In the wealthier 4th District, which takes in such areas as Hancock Park, Windsor Square and the Hollywood Hills, Ryu had run as a reformer who succeeded in securing passage of new limits on campaign donations from real estate developers. Ryu, 45, said he had achieved that goal despite years of resistance from inside City Hall — and would work to make more progress during a second term.

L.A. City Councilman David Ryu speaks with Renee Weitzer, left, and Sabra Williams at the Hollywood Bowl Vote Center.
(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Critics said his measure contained too many loopholes. And in the wake of the George Floyd protests, Raman called on Ryu to disavow the nearly $45,000 spent on his behalf by the Police Protective League, which represents LAPD officers.

Raman campaigned on a promise to fight laws “criminalizing” homelessness and argued for making the LAPD a much smaller armed force, saying many of the department’s duties should be reassigned to other workers. A member of the L.A. chapter of Democratic Socialists for America, Raman spread her message nationally, landing favorable profiles in Vogue and the Daily Beast and interviews on bonus segments of the “Chapo Trap House” podcast.

Ryu sought to make her leftist supporters a campaign issue, highlighting social media posts from Democratic Socialists for America-L.A. calling police officers “pigs” who work in tandem with the Ku Klux Klan. And he also criticized Raman for signing a pledge supporting the People’s Budget, which called for the city to allocate less than 2% of the city’s general fund to law enforcement and policing.

Raman called Ryu’s assertion false, saying she did not support any specific size cut — and would need more information on LAPD spending before she could determine how much of a reduction is warranted. Her campaign manager called Ryu’s focus on Raman’s supporters “cheap” and “distasteful” and said it was an attempt to distract voters from Raman’s deep grassroots support.

Times staff writer Benjamin Oreskes contributed to this report.


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