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With Jan Perry’s entrance, race to replace Supervisor Ridley-Thomas could be contentious

With Jan Perry’s entrance, race to replace Supervisor Ridley-Thomas could be contentious
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks at the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting in January. Several candidates, including Jan Perry, Herb Wesson and Sharis Rhodes, are running to succeed him. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Another experienced local politician, former Los Angeles City Council member Jan Perry, is making an early leap into the race to succeed term-limited county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas next year.

Perry announced Tuesday that she’s joining a field that already includes her one-time City Hall rival, Herb Wesson, and first-time candidate Sharis Rhodes to represent the 2nd Supervisorial District in South Los Angeles, which encompasses roughly 2 million residents.

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A former appointee of Mayor Eric Garcetti, Perry said that, if elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, she would focus on homelessness and on building new infrastructure to create jobs and spur community development.

“The county’s most important function is to ensure that services it provides are available in a manner that’s as accessible and effective as possible,” she said. “I have a well-documented, well-developed portfolio of” doing that.

Ridley-Thomas, in turn, is running for Wesson's council seat next year. A former councilman himself, he has sent invitations to a Super Bowl-themed campaign fundraiser planned next month, according to city records.

Jan Perry
Jan Perry (Handout)

Given their experience and base of support in South L.A., both Perry and Wesson — who, as City Council president, represents a district stretching from Koreatown to Leimert Park — are likely to be formidable candidates to succeed Ridley-Thomas in the primary election next year.

The two political veterans, along with Rhodes, are black — and about half the county’s black population lives in the supervisorial district, which stretches from Culver City to Carson.

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Wesson, who has been council president since 2012, entered the race last month. A highly influential figure, he rivals Garcetti in his ability to shape policy and legislation at City Hall.

Wesson also could face questions during the campaign about an ongoing corruption investigation at City Hall. A federal search warrant filed in the probe said agents were seeking evidence related to an investigation of an array of potential crimes, including bribery and extortion, and named several political figures, including Deron Williams, Wesson’s chief of staff.

Perry moved into Ladera Heights after the holiday season and had previously lived outside the district in downtown. She is the executive director of the Infrastructure Funding Alliance and said that, during her time at City Hall, she secured funds for affordable housing and worked to improve conditions in skid row.

Perry served on the City Council from 2001 to 2013. During her final years on the council, she waged an unsuccessful run for mayor and endorsed Garcetti for mayor in a 2013 runoff. He appointed her to lead the city's Economic and Workforce Development Department a few months later.

Wesson and Perry have a shared political history from their time serving together on the City Council, raising the prospect of a contentious race.

Council President Herb J. Wesson
Council President Herb J. Wesson (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

During her last few years on the council, Perry was at odds with Wesson over his handling of the city’s redistricting process, which led to a major redesign of the boundaries of Perry’s council district.

And as the redistricting process was getting started, Perry and a close ally, Councilman Bernard C. Parks, did not show up for a vote, in which Wesson became the City Council’s first black president. Weeks later, Wesson removed Parks and Perry from two key committees.

The third, lesser-known candidate, Rhodes, is a Los Angeles High School graduate who spent time in foster care during her childhood. The mother of a 3-year-old son, Rhodes, 32, said she is running to be a voice for younger constituents and, if elected, hopes to draw on her experience as a music teacher for at-risk youths to help constituents.

Sharis Rhodes
Sharis Rhodes (Handout)

“I’m going up against some big, heavy names. But at the same time, their political histories have not done our community justice,” said Rhodes, who is studying community planning and economic development at Los Angeles Trade Technical College.

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The election is set for March 2020, with a potential runoff election in November 2020.

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