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L.A. Council reappoints Heather Hutt, skipping special election for Ridley-Thomas seat

two women in business clothing hug each other
Heather Hutt was reappointed as the interim council member for the 10th District, despite warnings that the move will disenfranchise voters.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
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The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to reappoint Heather Hutt as the interim replacement for former Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, despite objections from critics who labeled the move undemocratic.

On an 11-1 vote, Hutt was chosen to remain on the council through December 2024, representing Ridley-Thomas’ district for the rest of his unfinished term. Ridley-Thomas was ousted from his seat last month after being convicted on federal corruption charges.

Hutt was first chosen as an interim council member for the 10th District in September. The decision to extend her tenure another 20 months means the 10th, which stretches from Koreatown to the Crenshaw Corridor, will likely end up going more than three years without its voters choosing their own representative.

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Council member Monica Rodriguez cast the lone dissenting vote, saying the city should have called a special election and assigned Hutt as a nonvoting caretaker. Rodriguez said she raised similar objections about the selection process last year, when Hutt was first chosen.

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“It is again being rushed through. It is again not allowing for a public process,” she said. “And it is devoid of democracy.”

Council President Paul Krekorian pushed back against those assertions, saying the election for Ridley-Thomas’ seat is already underway, with Hutt and several other candidates campaigning for the seat. Voters in the regularly scheduled March primary election will have the power to weigh in then, he said.

“If they don’t like the job Heather Hutt is doing, guess what? They don’t have to reelect her. If they like her, they can reelect her. That’s what the democratic process is,” Krekorian said. “But to disenfranchise this district for another half a year, and to set an expensive special election, to me would be calamitous for the people of the 10th District.”

Supporters in the benches of a government hall cheer, some rising out of their seats
Supporters cheer at City Hall on Tuesday as the L.A. City Council votes for Heather Hutt to fill its 10th District seat, replacing former Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who was found guilty of federal corruption charges.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
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Hutt, during brief remarks after the vote, thanked the community and said she would “continue to do the work.”

Ridley-Thomas was indicted in October 2021 on conspiracy, bribery and fraud charges. He was suspended by his colleagues soon after that. Karly Katona, his chief of staff at the time, was named as the district’s non-voting caretaker for several months.

In February 2022, the council tapped former Councilmember Herb Wesson to serve as the interim voting representative of the 10th, which includes such neighborhoods as Leimert Park, Mid-City and West Adams. After a judge blocked that appointment, the council picked Hutt, a former legislative aide who ran unsuccessfully for state Assembly in 2021

Heather Hutt, an interim member of the L.A. City Council, has become collateral damage in the widening scandal tied to four Latino leaders and redistricting.

Oct. 17, 2022

In recent days, three of Hutt’s rivals — attorney Grace Yoo, former city commissioner Aura Vasquez and Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer — have called for a special election, saying residents of the district have gone too long with caretakers and temporary replacements.

Yoo said two other districts, both of them in the San Fernando Valley, have had special elections in recent years. Others criticized council members for claiming the election would be too expensive, saying the city should be willing to invest in democracy.

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“Koreatown is a filthy mess. We don’t get constituent services,” said Angie Brown, a resident of Koreatown. “And I’m begging you to give us a fresh start.”

Supporters of Hutt took a different view, saying Hutt had stabilized the district and served it well. They argued that a special election would disenfranchise district residents, leaving them once again without a voting representative.

“[Hutt] has been doing an excellent job,” said Billie Green, a former Wesson staffer. “The community wants her back. I want her back.”

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