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L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson launches bid for county supervisor

L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson launches bid for county supervisor
Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, shown here discussing street vending regulations, announced Monday that he is running for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson said Monday he is running in 2020 for a seat on the county Board of Supervisors, looking to represent roughly 2 million people in a district stretching from Carson to Culver City.

In a fundraising blast to supporters, Wesson said he is looking to serve the district being vacated by departing Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who faces term limits in two years.

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“After discussing with my wife, Fabian, and our sons, we are excited to continue the progress we have begun in my time in the Assembly and Los Angeles City Council,” Wesson said in the email, which included a request for a campaign contribution of up to $1,500.

“I am asking you to join me in these early stages of my campaign because you know where I stand,” Wesson said. “I have always prioritized making Los Angeles a better place to live, work and raise a family.”

The announcement, which included the launch of a campaign website and a 2020 Twitter page, raises the prospect that Ridley-Thomas will in turn run for Wesson’s seat. Both men represent portions of South Los Angeles.

A Ridley-Thomas spokeswoman did not immediately comment. His sprawling district takes in Compton, Gardena, Lennox, Westchester, Koreatown and part of downtown Los Angeles.

Wesson, 67, has been on the council since 2005. Before that, he was in the state Assembly, spending part of his tenure as speaker.

Wesson worked at one time for former county Supervisor Yvonne Burke, who was succeeded by Ridley-Thomas in 2008. If he wins the seat, it will be a “return home” for Wesson, said political consultant Dermot Givens.

As a supervisor, “you're more than a council person — you're the king," Givens said. "You don't have a mayor or anyone overseeing what you do or countering what you do. It's much more powerful."

Wesson is not the only figure at City Hall to consider a run for the Ridley-Thomas seat. Former City Councilwoman Jan Perry, who previously has been at odds with Wesson, said several weeks ago that she too is considering a campaign.

Perry, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2013, is slated to step down by the end of the year from her post as the top executive at the city’s Economic and Workforce Development Department.

Wesson has been a highly influential figure, rivaling Mayor Eric Garcetti in his ability to shape policy and legislation at City Hall. He replaced Garcetti as council president in 2012 and within weeks had put his stamp on the city’s redistricting process, which resulted in new boundaries for each council district.

Since then, Wesson has set the agenda for the council as it considered such big-ticket issues as a citywide increase in the minimum wage, changes to the city’s election dates, regulations for cannabis businesses and a reworking of the LAPD’s internal disciplinary process.

As president, he has generally been able to command “as many votes as he wants” on different topics, said Jaime Regalado, professor emeritus of political science at Cal State Los Angeles.

“He'll be an instant front-runner,” Regalado added.

Though Wesson has maintained deft control over the council’s policy agenda, things have been a bit messier in his private life. Two years ago, he narrowly avoided a foreclosure auction on his rental property in Ladera Heights. He and his wife had received five default notices over five years at properties they own.

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Each notice was ultimately rescinded. More recently, Wesson ran into legal trouble over unpaid credit card bills. In August, he told The Times that those bills had been paid off.

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