In election with a bid to boost turnout, participation may be lacking

On Tuesday, voters will make decisions on more than a dozen contests and on whether to change local elections from odd to even years.
(Patrick T. Fallon / For the Times)

In an election Tuesday where voters will weigh in on an idea to boost L.A.’s low voter turnout, it remains an open question how many people will go to the polls.

With a late winter storm predicted for the weekend, candidates and their teams were scrambling to phone voters and knock on as many doors as possible. “We’ll be out there, rain or shine,’' said Karren Lane, a consultant to Marqueece Harris-Dawson, one of four candidates hoping to replace retiring South Los Angeles Councilman Bernard C. Parks.

If the rain extends into Tuesday, as predicted, it could further dampen what is already expected to be a low turnout. Just under 21% of registered voters marked ballots in the 2013 primary, a race that featured an open mayoral seat and several contested council seats.

In a bid to increase turnout, two city charter amendments will ask voters to approve shifting city and school district elections from odd to even years so they coincide with state and national races. Backers believe the change will draw more voters, especially those who are young, black or Latino, and reduce the power of special interests. Opponents argue it would actually increase the sway of special interests and force local candidates to raise more money. The measures would also give some elected officials an extra 11/2 years in office.


Elections will be held for nearly half of the 15 spots on the Los Angeles City Council as well as school board and community college seats.

In the 4th District, which stretches from Sherman Oaks to the Miracle Mile, 14 contenders are vying to replace termed-out Councilman Tom LaBonge, known as L.A.'s most constant civic cheerleader. Candidates have sparred over how to control out-of-scale development and fix city finances. The race, widely seen as the most unpredictable of the election, is expected to require a runoff in May.

Also termed out is Parks, a budget hawk, former police chief and a rare dissenter on the council. The contest for his 8th District office pits community organizer Marqueece Harris-Dawson against longtime Democratic activist Bobbie Jean Anderson, political consultant Robert Cole and community banker Forescee Hogan-Rowles.

Councilman Jose Huizar is facing stiff opposition from former Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina in his bid to hang onto a district reaching from Eagle Rock south to downtown. There are two other challengers in the race, which has focused on the pace of downtown development, the power of special interests in City Hall and bike lanes.

In the central San Fernando Valley, Councilwoman Nury Martinez is in a rematch with Cindy Montañez, a former Department of Water and Power consultant and state lawmaker she defeated 18 months ago. In recent days, Montañez has criticized the incumbent’s ties to tobacco and development interests; Martinez has accused her challenger of running a campaign based on spite because she lost a race she had been favored to win.

Councilman Paul Krekorian is campaigning to keep his Valley seat in the 2nd District race against Eric Preven, a writer who frequently scrutinizes local government. And council President Herb Wesson is up for reelection in the Crenshaw-to-Koreatown 10th District, running against community organizer Grace Yoo and theologian Delaney “Doc” Smith. In the northwest Valley, Council member Mitch Englander is running unopposed for his 12th District seat.

Also on the ballot are four seats on the seven-member Board of Education. All of the incumbents are seeking reelection.

In the San Fernando Valley, five challengers are trying to force incumbent Tamar Galatzan into a runoff. Two challengers are attempting the same with board President Richard Vladovic in a district stretching from South L.A. to the harbor.

In the most expensive and negative contest, incumbent Bennett Kayser is opposed by charter school founder Ref Rodriguez and parent leader Andrew Thomas. That race has become a proxy war between political action committees of the teachers union (for Kayser) and of charter schools (for Rodriguez). This district encompasses areas north of downtown as well as the cities of southeast L.A. County.

George McKenna is unopposed in his south and southwest L.A. district.

The incoming board will select a superintendent, make difficult spending decisions and choose the future path of reforms that have been the subject of local as well as national debate, including how best to evaluate teachers and whether to limit their job protections.

Thirteen candidates are vying for four seats on the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees. The district’s faculty union has backed four candidates. One of them, Francesca Vega, is engaged in a spirited campaign against Andra Hoffman, an employee at Glendale Community College who has been endorsed by that school’s faculty union.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Voters who have not posted mail-in ballots can return them to the polls on election day.

Times staff writers Howard Blume, Jason Song and David Zahniser contributed to this report.