Tenant rights lawyer Ysabel Jurado will face Councilmember Kevin de León in runoff

Ysabel Jurado standing outside
Ysabel Jurado, a candidate for City Council, talks with volunteers before heading out to contact voters in January.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles City Council candidate Ysabel Jurado didn’t have any big-money backers spending lavishly on her behalf.

The Highland Park resident didn’t mail out glossy campaign mailers either, opting instead for an estimated 3,000 postcards, which were less expensive and personally handwritten.

What Jurado, a tenant rights attorney, did have was a supercharged canvassing operation. According to her campaign, she sent 20 paid staffers and about 250 volunteers to 85,000 doors across the 14th District, which stretches from Boyle Heights and downtown north to Eagle Rock and El Sereno.

That strategy is paying dividends. On Tuesday, she pulled ahead of Councilmember Kevin de León, who had been leading in the eight-way race to represent his Eastside district, according to the latest election results. Now in first place and headed to a Nov. 5 runoff, Jurado is yet another example of the electoral might being wielded in local elections by the city’s political left.


Jurado, in an interview, portrayed her campaign as a lean operation, one focused on supporting renters, fighting gentrification and “uplifting the voices of those who haven’t been heard.”

“We don’t have an office. We haven’t sent mailers. We are talking to voters one-to-one,” she said. “Everything involved in building this campaign has been an uphill battle.”

By Thursday, Jurado had 24.5% of the vote, compared with 23.4% for De León — a difference of nearly 400 ballots. Assemblymember Miguel Santiago was in third place with 21.3%.

Election officials said they still had an estimated 8,200 ballots left to process countywide. Those ballots were not expected to significantly change the outcome of the City Council contests.

De León, who is seeking a second four-year term, will face some serious challenges during the second round. A former state lawmaker, he was at the center of the 2022 scandal over leaked racist remarks that spurred the resignations of former council President Nury Martinez and Ron Herrera, former head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

De León repeatedly apologized for his remarks during that conversation, and for failing to put a stop to those made by others. He resisted calls to step down from a wide array of politicians, including President Biden, showing up at meetings where he was frequently jeered at by audience members.


Less than a fourth of voters opted to keep De León in office.

With De León and Jurado in the top two, voters in the 14th District will have a clear choice on several of the city’s most contested issues.

De León voted last year for Mayor Karen Bass’ budget, which called for the hiring of 1,000 police officers. Jurado said she would have voted against the spending plan, pushing for funds to be allocated to social services instead.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de León was enveloped in scandal in 2022. He’s running for a second four-year term and facing seven challengers.

Feb. 1, 2024

De León also voted for a four-year package of police raises, which Jurado opposed. In addition, De León is a supporter of Municipal Code 41.18, which bars homeless encampments within 500 feet of schools, day-care centers and “sensitive” locations designated by the council, such as senior centers and freeway overpasses.

Jurado has called for 41.18 to be repealed, saying it has led to the criminalization of homelessness.

On Tuesday, a De León representative made clear that his campaign would highlight some of those differences.

“The voters have a clear choice in November between an experienced, results-driven elected official and someone who has promised to undo some of the progress we’ve made in housing Angelenos and cleaning up sidewalks,” said David Meraz, a De León spokesperson.


Meraz pointed out that 18 months ago, in the wake of the audio leak scandal, many political groups called for De León to step down. The results show that “the community makes the choice of the candidate, not outside organizations,” he said.

Jurado has been running to push the council to the left, expanding the size of the council’s ultra-progressive bloc if she wins. She would be the first Filipino American to serve on the council, representing a district that is 61% Latino, 16% white and nearly 15% Asian, according to a demographic breakdown posted by the city in 2021.

De León, who was born in Los Angeles, is of Mexican, Guatemalan and Chinese descent, Meraz said. During the campaign, De León highlighted his own efforts to reduce homelessness, aid renters and halt gentrification in downtown L.A. and Boyle Heights.

Brian VanRiper, a political consultant who does not have any clients in the race, said Jurado is in a strong position to prevail in the runoff. Still, he offered a word of caution for the Jurado camp, noting that the district has a “history of forgiving” incumbents with major political baggage.

District voters reelected Councilmember Jose Huizar in 2015, even after he was sued by a former staffer who alleged that he had sexually harassed her. In that contest, Huizar easily defeated former County Supervisor Gloria Molina, a political “titan” who had been in office for about three decades.

“[Huizar] doubled down on constituent services and making the case that he delivered for the district,” VanRiper said. “It seems like Kevin de León is following that playbook.”


Huizar was later charged in a sweeping federal corruption case and was sentenced to 13 years in prison. De León was elected to the seat in 2020.

In recent months, many of the groups that supported De León four years ago lined up behind other candidates. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Western States Regional Council of Carpenters and other groups spent a combined $687,000 on efforts to elect Santiago, the state lawmaker who was in third place.

A representative of the Santiago campaign declined to comment.

Jurado, for her part, secured endorsements from an array of politicians and community groups, many of them at the left end of the political spectrum.

Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez, City Controller Kenneth Mejia and former mayoral candidate Gina Viola all backed Jurado. Volunteers from the Democratic Socialists of America-Los Angeles, Ground Game LA and Boyle Heights Vota — formerly known as Boyle Heights for Bernie — have knocked on doors for her.

Caleb Elguezabal, who lives in Eagle Rock and is a member of the Democratic Socialists, said the district has not “had the best representation” over the last decade.

Elguezabal, who volunteered on Jurado’s campaign, said he expects her to bring change to City Hall with a new approach to homelessness, fighting for a tax on vacant residential units and helping renters purchase their apartment buildings.


“Having someone with integrity would be a massive sea change,” he said.

Times staff writer Angie Orellana Hernandez contributed to this report.