“You can’t beat city hall,” so the saying goes. Sometimes, no one even tries.
In the last decade, 28 of Los Angeles County’s 88 cities have canceled elections for city council or mayor at least once — because no one bothered making a challenge.
Not all cities cancel elections; some still go ahead anyway, which permits a last-minute challenge by a write-in candidate. But California law gives city councils a choice to forego the election completely, allowing incumbents and appointed replacements to be sworn into a new elected term without voters seeing candidates’ names on their ballot.
Many of the cities that have canceled elections are in the South Bay, southeast Los Angeles County, and the San Gabriel Valley. They include cities both affluent and modest, from San Marino and Palos Verdes Estates to Cudahy and Paramount. Supporters of canceled elections say the move saves money.
The city with the most canceled elections in the last decade is the City of Industry, an oddly shaped, 12-square-mile area in the San Gabriel Valley that looks like the grin of the Cheshire cat. The City of Industry is home to only about 400 residents and hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of businesses, such as warehouses and manufacturing plants.
Industry has canceled all five elections in the last 10 years — and actually, hasn’t had an election with the name of a City Council candidate on the ballot since 1998. In a special election to replace a council member who died in office, Dave Winn won 78 votes to John Garcia’s 10.
The City of Industry has canceled most elections since it was incorporated in 1957. Usually, new council members are appointed by existing City Council members.
The 1986 election was only the third time in city history incumbents faced an opponent in an election. Schoolteacher Lydia Nash was trounced in that election against the three incumbents.