Los Angeles County has officially finalized the slate of candidates who will face off in the Nov. 8 runoff election, setting the stage for nearly a dozen deadly contests, including the mayoral showdown between U.S. Rep. Karen Bass and real estate developer Rick Caruso.
Nearly a month after the June 7 election, officials from the Los Angeles County Clerk-Recorder on Friday certified race results for the Los Angeles mayor, city council, school board, supervisor and sheriff, identifying the outright winners in many cases and paving the way to the final round.
County officials spent weeks reviewing and compiling late mail-in ballots, which offered vastly different results from the first snapshot on election night. The election, which saw more than 84% of ballots cast by mail, revealed the growing political power of the LA left, which managed to unseat a councilman and secure big wins for several other candidates.
Bass is now firmly the favorite in the race to replace LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, finishing the primary with a seven-point lead despite an onslaught of expensive campaign ads from Caruso. In other contests, candidates who seemed to be hanging around on election night are now in the lead or in much stronger positions going into the runoff.
Bass is already in trickle mode, reminding supporters that Caruso only registered as a Democrat earlier this year.
“You don’t become a Democrat to tick a box,” she said this week at an event for her campaign’s gay, lesbian and transgender allies. “A Democrat is a set of values, and there is only one Democrat in this race.”
Caruso has been tending to his base in the San Fernando Valley, meeting Sunland-Tujunga firefighters and restaurant patrons in recent days. in Porter Ranch, two of the city’s most conservative neighborhoods. The businessman, who has spent tens of millions on his campaign, is having a much harder time winning the support of elected Democrats, who could have “defected” if Caruso had come in first place, said political consultant Eric Hacopian.
“By all accounts he underperformed, considering his advantages,” said Hacopian, who is not racing in town this year.
Caruso’s team have challenged that notion and remain confident about their prospects.
“Rick has gone from single digits to a second round in just a few months thanks to his message about fighting homelessness, crime and corruption,” spokesman Peter Ragone said. “This fall, voters will have a clear choice between a politician who says she can’t solve homelessness anytime soon and a civic leader who can reduce crime and clean up LA”
Still, Caruso faces questions about how much progress he can make in a city where progressive Democrats and, in some races, socialist Democrats have made pioneering gains in vote-down contests.
In the race to replace controller Ron Galperin, accountant Kenneth Mejia maintained a nearly 20-point lead over his opponent, councilman Paul Koretz. Mejia, whose campaign energizes young voters, called for deep cuts in law enforcement, a concept opposed by Koretz, a 13-year veteran at City Hall. Mejia had 43% of the votes; Koretz had almost 24%.
In the campaign for city attorney, civil rights attorney Faisal Gill led attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto by a four-point margin. Gill has promised to impose a 100-day moratorium on criminal offense filings, a move Feldstein Soto opposes.
Both of these contests are now heading to a second round.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America has won an outright victory in the Eastside, where its favorite candidate Unelected Councilman Gil Cedillo, a 24-year political veteran who served in Sacramento and City Hall.
Cedillo lost out to community activist Eunisses Hernandez, who would become the council’s first abolitionist — an advocate for dismantling prison systems, correctional facilities and law enforcement and channeling savings into mental health care , addictions services, affordable housing and anti-poverty programs. During the campaign, she said she would vote against hiring police officers, including recruits to replace those who retire or quit.
In his grant statement, Cedillo said he has dedicated his life to public service and is grateful to have worked with “so many incredible people” to improve the lives of Angelenos.
The councilman – who tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday – said he was proud to have worked in Sacramento to ensure residents, regardless of immigration status, have access to driver’s licenses. He also touted his work at City Hall, helping voters weather the pandemic and building “housing of all types” in his district, which stretches from Highland Park to Pico-Union.
“I look forward to completing my term on city council, completing projects and preparing to serve in a new way,” he said.
Hernandez, who had already declared himself the winner, will be sworn in at the end of the year. In an interview, she thanked her supporters and said she would spend the next few months developing her strategy for the district. She promised to build on Cedillo’s accomplishments.
“We’re going to take a lot of the amazing work they’re doing and take it to another level, so that we get care and access to health services in our communities and very affordable housing,” he said. she stated. “I am grateful to the incumbent for all the work he has done and for all the groundwork he has laid so that someone like me can stand for election.”
Cedillo’s ousting wasn’t the only success for the left in Los Angeles. In a neighborhood that stretches from Echo Park to Hollywood, labor organizer Hugo Soto-Martinez held a nine-point lead over Councilman Mitch O’Farrell. The competition is now heading to a second round. Activists of the Democratic Socialists of America had campaigned for Soto-Martinez.
In Coastal Neighborhoods, civil rights attorney Erin Darling held a nearly six-point lead over municipal law attorney Traci Park in the race to replace Councilman Mike Bonin. These two candidates, who strongly disagree on approaches to homelessness and public safety, are now heading to a second round.
Those top spots were celebrated for weeks by activists who opposed plans to hire more police and attacked council members for their decision to ban homeless encampments near certain facilities, such as public schools and daycares.
Josh Androsky, a consultant who worked on the Hernandez and Soto-Martinez campaigns, said the main results show the LA left “won their biggest election victory ever.”
“For me, the most important and necessary outcome of this election cycle is that we build a real progressive base,” he said. “I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve never seen anything like it.”
If the runoff follows the same pattern, LA will show it is a progressive stronghold, protecting Angelenos at a time when the Supreme Court is “disenfranchising them,” he said.
Androsky said progressive activists could become even more active in two more council contests as Nov. 8 approaches.
On the Westside, political aide Katy Yaroslavsky will face lawyer Sam Yebri in the race to replace Koretz. And in communities near the Port of Los Angeles, attorney Tim McOsker will face Ward Chief Danielle Sandoval in the contest to replace Councilman Joe Buscaino.
In county contests, Supervisor Hilda Solis and Evaluator Jeffrey Prang were victorious, receiving over 50% of the vote. But Sheriff Alex Villanueva was forced into a runoff, facing retired Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna.
Meanwhile, State Senator Bob Hertzberg will face West Hollywood Councilwoman Lindsey Horvath in the race to replace County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, in a district that encompasses parts of the Westside and the San Fernando Valley.
At the Los Angeles Unified School District, two of this year’s three plank races are also heading to a second round.
In the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles Board of Education President Kelly Gonez failed to avoid a runoff and will face a challenge from high school Spanish teacher Marvin Rodriguez. Gonez, who had the support of charter school and employee union supporters in the district, led Rodriguez 48% to 31%.
At the east end of LA Unified, Rocío Rivas, an assistant to board member Jackie Goldberg, will compete in the second round against nonprofit executive Maria Brenes. Brenes had the support of several labor organizations, including the LA County Federation of Labor, and outgoing board member Monica Garcia. Rivas, who led Brenes 44% to 30%, was backed by the teachers’ union.
In the Westside, board member Nick Melvoin scored an outright victory, avoiding a runoff and winning a second term.
Editors Howard Blume and Julia Wick contributed to this report.