Former lawmaker seeks to unseat L.A. Councilwoman Nury Martinez

Former lawmaker seeks to unseat L.A. Councilwoman Nury Martinez
A 2013 candidate forum attended by Los Angeles City Councilwoman Nury Martinez, left, and her opponent, former Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez in 2013. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Former Assemblywoman Cindy Montañez said Saturday she intends to challenge Los Angeles City Councilwoman Nury Martinez in the March 3 election, setting up a rematch of a nasty contest waged last year.

Montañez, who worked until recently for the Department of Water and Power, said she filed the initial paperwork needed to run against Martinez, who has held city office for just over a year.

A resident of Van Nuys, Montañez said Martinez has not put enough work into solving neighborhood problems such as crime, graffiti, sidewalk repairs, park cleanup and prostitution.

"The quality of life hasn't gotten any better, and I just think we need better representation," Montañez said.

Montañez, 40, lost to Martinez in last year's race to replace Tony Cardenas, who was elected to Congress in the middle of his council term, in the central San Fernando Valley. The contest saw one of the most dramatic turnarounds in recent city election history.

Montañez led Martinez in the May 2013 primary election by 19 percentage points. But when the runoff election was held two months later, Martinez defeated Montañez by nearly 10 percentage points.

Martinez, 41, defended her record, saying she is working to increase park space in Sun Valley and Arleta and adding manufacturing jobs to the district. Three companies, including a La Brea Bakery baking facility, are expanding their operations in Van Nuys, she said.

"I'm very proud of the work I've done in such a short amount of time," said Martinez, who lives in Sun Valley. "And I've made it clear that we can and will compete for every vote in every neighborhood."

A third potential candidate, businessman Dan Stroncak, also filed paperwork saying he intends to run.

Martinez, a former school board member, represents the council’s 6th District, which takes in all or portions of such neighborhoods as Van Nuys, Arleta and Panorama City. She took a leading role this year in the effort to pass a $15.37-per-hour minimum wage for workers at larger hotels. She also co-authored a proposal to take the citywide minimum wage to $15.25 per hour for all workers by 2019.

Montañez said she is still studying the citywide wage proposal to determine its effects. But she accused the incumbent of doing too little to boost the overall economy. "You can't give [workers] a minimum wage if there's no job," Montañez said.

Reports filed with the Ethics Commission showed that Martinez had already raised nearly $120,000 in contributions by Sept. 30. Montañez filed paperwork to raise money this week.

Saturday was the deadline for candidates in the city election to file declarations of intent to run in seven council contests. Candidates will also be required to submit with voter signatures in the coming weeks before they qualify to appear on the ballot.

Follow @DavidZahniser for what's happening at Los Angeles City Hall