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Gov. Newsom calls on L.A. City Councilmen De León and Cedillo to resign over racist audio leak

The governor told reporters he thinks Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo should follow Nury Martinez in resigning from their City Council positions.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday said L.A. City Councilmembers Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo should follow Nury Martinez in resigning from their positions, two weeks after a leaked audio recording of the three participating in a racist closed-door conversation about council colleagues and the city’s political redistricting process was made public.

Newsom initially said it was “the right move” when Martinez resigned from the council on Oct. 12, after she had already stepped down as council president. But until Sunday, the governor hadn’t publicly commented on whether the remaining two members should follow suit.

“I think they should,” Newsom told reporters after he participated in a KQED election debate against Republican opponent Brian Dahle in San Francisco. Newsom said he had wanted to give the members “space” to make the decision to resign.

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“I was very clear with Nury that she did the right thing, and I think the others should do the same,” he said. “I wanted to provide the opportunity for them to justify … what they said and the opportunity to be transparent about what they said. So we’re hoping and looking forward to [resignation] announcements soon.”

A leaked recording of L.A. City Council members and a labor official includes racist remarks. Council President Nury Martinez apologizes; Councilmember Kevin de León expresses regret.

Oct. 9, 2022

The calls for resignation stem from an October 2021 leaked conversation about the city’s redistricting process among the three members and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera. The group was discussing ways to maintain Latino political power in the redrawing of the city’s new maps.

During their conversation, Martinez used openly racist terms to describe her white colleague Councilmember Mike Bonin’s young Black son, referring to the child as “parece changuito,” or “like a monkey.” She also said Bonin’s son had misbehaved on a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade float and needed a “beatdown.” Martinez apologized repeatedly for the comments.

At one point in the conversation, De León seemed to compare Bonin’s handling of his son to “when Nury brings her Goyard bag or the Louis Vuitton bag.”

Political leaders across the state and country called for the resignations of all four involved in the conversation, including President Biden. Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta also launched an investigation into the city’s redistricting process that took place last fall, saying that a probe was necessary to “restore confidence” in how the maps were drawn.

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While Martinez and Herrera quickly resigned from their positions, Cedillo and De León have so far resisted calls both from their political colleagues and from the public to leave office. They’ve both been stripped of their committee duties.

Cedillo lost his June primary reelection bid and will soon be replaced on the council by activist Eunisses Hernandez. But De León said last week that he has no plans to step aside. He apologized for participating in the conversation, but said his constituents deserve representation and that there were serious issues in his downtown and Eastside district he wanted to help solve.

The city of Los Angeles lets elected officials draw the lines of their own districts in the decennial redistricting process. That’s why “asset gerrymandering” is a thing in L.A.

Oct. 14, 2022

“No, I will not resign, because there is a lot of work ahead,” De León said in an interview with Noticiero Univision.

In his initial Oct. 10 statement about the recording, Newsom said that “words matter, and racist language can do real harm.”

“These comments have no place in our state, or in our politics, and we must all model better behavior to live the values that so many of us fight every day to protect.”

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