It’s rare in Los Angeles city elections that voters are offered much of an ideological or political choice. Usually runoff elections are Democrat versus Democrat, and the differences between the candidates are mostly in experience and style, rather than substance.
That is not the case in the race for the City Council District 12 seat, which became vacant when former Councilman Mitch Englander left at the end of last year to become a lobbyist for a sports and entertainment firm.
Voters in the North San Fernando Valley district, which stretches across Northridge, Granada Hills, Porter Ranch, Chatsworth and West Hills, have a choice to make between two candidates with very different politics, work experience and priorities. When the votes are tallied after election day on Aug. 13, the results will offer a clue into whether conservatives are maintaining their strongholds in Los Angeles, or losing their grip.
The candidates are Loraine Lundquist, a neighborhood council member, environmental activist and astrophysicist who teaches at the Institute for Sustainability at Cal State Northridge, and John Lee, a longtime City Hall staffer and who served as Englander’s chief of staff.
The Times endorsed Lundquist in the June primary and we heartily recommend her again. Lundquist has outlined a vision for a more inclusive, sustainable Los Angeles — and achieving that vision is more critical than ever as the city struggles to end the affordable housing crisis, build a modern transportation system and address the devastating impacts of global warming.
So how are the candidates different?
Lundquist is a Democrat and Lee is a Republican. The City Council race is nonpartisan, but it’s worth noting that the seat has long been occupied by Republicans.
Lundquist says she voted for Measure HHH and Measure H, which raised taxes to pay for housing and services to help ease homelessness. She favors using that money to build more homeless housing and shelters. (Council District 12 is the only district in the city that hasn’t found a location for a “bridge” shelter.) Lee says he voted against the measures and prefers privately funded homeless shelters.
Lundquist is committed to fighting climate change, and she supports Mayor Eric Garcetti’s plans to phase out, rather than rebuild, three natural gas power plants owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and to replace them with more renewable energy.
Lee has expressed concerns that shutting down the plants could raise electricity rates — the same warning issued by IBEW Local 18, the union that represents DWP workers at the plants and that is fighting the closures. A union-backed political action committee spent $57,000 in support of Lee during the primary; the committee also received money from the fossil fuel industry.
Lundquist is a scientist who, after becoming a mother, decided to focus her career and activism on climate change. She’s been a neighborhood council leader and has helped organize her community to fight for environmental protection and homelessness solutions. Lee has worked 14 years in the council office, and he would be the third chief of staff elected to fill the Council District 12 seat; Englander succeeded his boss, Greig Smith, who took over from his boss, Hal Bernson.
It’s time for a fresh perspective and a new vision for North Valley, which makes Lundquist the best choice for the job.