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L.A. election's biggest winner? City Council President Herb Wesson

L.A. election's biggest winner? City Council President Herb Wesson
Los Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson was reelected in a landslide and his two ballot measures were approved overwhelmingly. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

In a Los Angeles election with an assortment of winners, no one at City Hall had a more triumphant Tuesday night than Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson.

Voters reelected Wesson in a landslide, giving the former assembly speaker a third and final term in office. They overwhelmingly approved Wesson's two ballot measures to consolidate city elections with state and federal contests. And, by changing the election date, Angelenos gave Wesson an extra 18 months in office, allowing him to stay until 2020 -- right when a seat occupied by County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas becomes vacant  because of term limits.

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For Wesson, the accomplishments didn't stop there. The veteran political operative helped one close ally, Councilman Jose Huizar, easily vanquish a challenge from former County Supervisor Gloria Molina. He helped another candidate, nonprofit executive Marqueece Harris-Dawson, handily win an open council seat in South Los Angeles. And it gets sweeter for Wesson: Harris-Dawson will replace departing Councilman Bernard C. Parks, Wesson's only critic on the council.

The clean sweep leaves Wesson in "a very privileged position," said Jaime Regalado, emeritus professor of political science at Cal State Los Angeles. "He was a strong council president before, but he's way above that now."

Wesson, whose district stretches from Crenshaw to Koreatown, will wield that additional clout as the council wades into a series of thorny issues that it delayed until after the election: regulations on digital billboards; a proposed hike in the citywide minimum wage; a policy for giving taxpayer funds to L.A. hotel developers; how to curb the construction of so-called mansions in low-rise residential neighborhoods; what to do if a downtown NFL stadium fails to materialize. He also will have the ability to exert more authority over policy proposals submitted by Mayor Eric Garcetti, including the yearly budget, which will be released next month.

Standing on the council floor on Wednesday, Wesson said he was "unbelievably pleased" that voters reelected the council's four other incumbents — Huizar, Nury Martinez, Paul Krekorian and Mitchell Englander. He would not get into specifics on how much money he raised and he sought to downplay his election-night accomplishments.

"People give me more credit than maybe I deserve," he added. "I think I do very well in working with other people, and listening and trying to see what their agendas are. And I'm not afraid to push those agendas after we determine what they are."

Wesson played a crucial role in Huizar's race, headlining a kickoff fundraiser for the Eastside councilman just days after Huizar was sued by an aide for sexual harassment. That case later settled and by election day, Huizar had raised more than $850,000 — more than any council candidate in the last 20 years. "I'm just happy that he was elected," Wesson said. "And any help I gave him, it looks like it paid off."

Follow @DavidZahniser for more news about L.A. City Hall.

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