Tuesday is election day in the northwest corner of Los Angeles. Voters there will be choosing a replacement for Mitch Englander, who left his job on the Los Angeles City Council to take a lobbying gig at the end of last year. The two candidates are John Lee, a Republican who served as Englander’s chief of staff, and Democrat Loraine Lundquist, who is an astrophysicist.
The Times Editorial Board recommended Lundquist for the job. (Click here for our endorsement.) Bottom line? The scientist and community activist is head and shoulders above Lee, despite his City Hall pedigree.
This San Fernando Valley district has traditionally voted for conservatives — and for former staffers. Both Englander and his predecessor served as a chief of staff to councilmembers before winning election to the top job.
Lee must be counting on that tradition to get him elected because he doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of new ideas. At least that was the impression that I had when Lee met with the L.A. Times Editorial Board before the June primary election.
Maybe I had high expectations because of Lee’s tenure as the top aide in the district. Surely he’d have a very clear vision about how he would run the council office and what he would contribute as the token Republican on the 15-member City Council. If he did, he didn’t share it with us. And though he boasted that he would be a bold councilman, when pressed, he couldn’t produce even a single example of how this boldness would manifest itself.
By contrast, I didn’t expect much when we met with Lundquist, a scientist who’d never held public office. And she’s not just a Democrat, but a progressive one who does have some pretty bold ideas about public transportation and housing that haven’t historically been popular in this suburban district. But my colleagues and I were blown away by her confidence, her understanding of the job and her commitment to focusing on the difficult issues facing the city, notably climate change.
That Lundquist is smart goes without saying. She’s an astrophysicist for heaven’s sake! But her political intelligence is just as high, sharpened no doubt by her work to close the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility after the 2015 blowout, and working on her neighborhood council. Lundquist wouldn’t just be a fierce advocate for her district but a formidable force on the 15-member council.
Also, don’t you just relish the idea of having a scientific mind questioning some of the nutty logic that comes out of City Hall?