Voters have to look hard to spot the differences in the race for Nury Martinez’s seat

Imelda Padilla, left, and Marisa Alcaraz.
Los Angeles City Council District 6 candidates Imelda Padilla, left, and Marisa Alcaraz during a debate in Panorama City in March.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

The two women running in the June 27 election for a Los Angeles City Council seat representing the central and east San Fernando Valley have striking similarities. Both are Democrats in their 30s, have master’s degrees and were raised in the Valley by family members who emigrated from Mexico.

Candidates Marisa Alcaraz and Imelda Padilla also agree on many city issues. Both support city-mandated minimum wage increases, the hiring of more police officers and the ability to bar homeless people from putting tents near elementary schools.

Voters casting ballots in the election for Council District 6 — which takes in all or parts of the neighborhoods of Lake Balboa, Van Nuys, Panorama City, Arleta, North Hills, North Hollywood and Sun Valley — may not see many differences in the candidates.


“To the average voter, they both look rather similar,” said political consultant Eric Hacopian, who isn’t involved in the race. “Elections like this, especially in the middle of the summer, are won by who has the better turnout programs.”

Still, one notable contrast is between the candidates’ professional backgrounds. Padilla, 35, has held an assortment of jobs over the last decade, including working at a medical group, for an L.A. County program to help young women, as a consultant and, briefly, as an aide in District 6.

The centers are open daily from 10 a.m to 7 p.m. for in-person voting, or to allow voters a chance to return a completed vote-by-mail ballot.

June 17, 2023

Alcaraz, 38, has spent the last 10 years at City Hall working for a City Council district in South L.A. that’s majority Latino and working class.

At a debate in Van Nuys last week, Alcaraz described herself as a “policy nerd” who has worked on legislation and policies that have helped city workers, grocery store workers and others.

“It boils down to who’s going to fight for the working class — for families of the Valley. Who’s gonna fight for renters, who’s gonna fight for immigrants?” Alcaraz said in an interview. “You can see through my record and what I’ve worked on that I’ve always been someone who’s stood up for working-class people.”

Padilla, in an interview, touted her work cleaning up an abandoned grocery store site on Sunland Boulevard — one of many quality-of-life issues she’s worked on — and her time serving on the Sun Valley Area Neighborhood Council.


“My experience in the community is going to make me a better candidate, to know how to hit the ground running and prioritize what City Hall should be doing from day one,” Padilla said.

The special election was sparked by the resignation of City Council President Nury Martinez, whose incendiary comments about her colleagues and various groups on a leaked recording last year drew outrage.

City Council District 6 candidate Marisa Alcaraz speaks during a debate in Van Nuys on June 14.
City Council District 6 candidate Marisa Alcaraz speaks during a debate in Van Nuys on June 14.
(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Both Alcaraz and Padilla grew up in the Valley and have support from a wide array of unions, community leaders and politicians. Alcaraz’s backers argue that she has the City Hall relationships to deliver resources for the district, while Padilla’s supporters point to her record of service to the Valley.

Alcaraz works as a deputy chief of staff for Councilmember Curren Price, who represents neighborhoods in South L.A. and the area around downtown’s convention center.

Price was charged last week with 10 criminal counts — which he called “unwarranted” — related to votes on development and his wife’s medical coverage from the city. Alcaraz called the charges “sad.”


Alcaraz, who lives in Lake Balboa, also worked briefly as a council aide to former Councilmember Richard Alarcón in the north San Fernando Valley, where she helped work on equestrian issues, among others.

At Price’s office, she spearheaded some of the council member’s biggest initiatives.

Alcaraz was critical to the city’s 2018 passage of the street vending ordinance, said Rudy Espinoza, executive director for Inclusive Action for the City, an economic justice organization. The law legalized street vending and was the culmination of years of protests and hearings supported by immigrant groups.

Espinoza said that Price’s office was willing to support street vending when other council offices didn’t want to touch the issue. Alcaraz was “consistent and practical” on moving the ordinance forward and to help rally other council offices to support it, he said.

“There’s a lot of value in being understated and getting the work done,” said Espinoza of Alcaraz’s approach.

The street vending issue was personal to Alcaraz, whose father is from Tijuana and used to sell bottled water to motorists struggling with overheated cars at the U.S.-Mexico border, she said in an interview.

Alcaraz also played a key role in championing a program called Solid Ground, which helps individuals avoid homelessness through financial help and counseling.


The program was launched in L.A. County in 2018. Shortly thereafter Alcaraz helped bring it to the city, said Leticia Andueza, associate executive director at New Economics for Women, a community economic development organization. Today, Solid Ground operates in 16 centers across the city.

“She was instrumental in moving it to the city,” Andueza said. “Absolutely, it has an impact. It’s helping stabilize families.”

District 6 candidate Imelda Padilla speaks at a debate in Van Nuys on June 14.
(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Padilla’s supporters point to her work in District 6. She was part of a group that pushed for the “Clean Up Green Up” program targeting hazardous and unhealthy businesses in the Valley and other parts of the city.

The ordinance was signed by former Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2016 and is designed to reduce health risks from industrial businesses and traffic pollution.

Padilla, who lives in Sun Valley, also worked for several nonprofits, including Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, where she helped work on the push to raise the city’s minimum wage.


A decade ago, she worked as an aide for about a year and half for Martinez and did several clean-ups in the district, she said.

Padilla knows “the needs of the people who are in this community,” said Councilmember Monica Rodriguez, who has worked with Padilla since the candidate was a youth organizer and Rodriguez worked for former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan.

Will the charges against City Councilmember Curren Price shake up the Council District 6 race?

June 17, 2023

Rodriguez also praised Padilla for her work creating an annual event that helps Los Angeles Unified high school and middle school students explore college opportunities and careers.

Padilla’s brother was incarcerated when she was 18, she said. That led her to focus on helping youths, she said, noting that she saw a lack of college-educated young men coming back to the community to inspire boys.

“She’s full of a lot energy,” said Thomas Soule, who serves alongside Padilla on the board of the Los Angeles Valley College Foundation, a nonprofit that is part of the Los Angeles Community College District. “She’s always got a lot of good ideas.”

Padilla serves as president of the board and has helped raise money for students who are in the country without authorization, among other initiatives. She took classes at Valley College when she was still in high school, she said, and the school has a “very happy special place in my heart.”


Polls close at 8 p.m. next Tuesday. The winner will face another election for this seat in March 2024, when Martinez’s term was due to expire.

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