It feels like the Los Angeles elections just ended and new Mayor Karen Bass and the rest of the political class of 2022 are still in the honeymoon stage in their roles leading and running the city.
But it’s time to get ready for the next round of elections, as voting takes place one year from Sunday.
On March 5, 2024, Californians will hit the polls for the state primary (mail-in ballots will go out before that). While picking a replacement for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is the big draw, nearly half of the residents of Los Angeles will vote for a City Council member. Seven of the 15 Council posts (those in even-numbered districts) are up for grabs. Any runoffs would be decided during the November general election.
It’s hard to overstate how important these jobs are: Each politician represents about 260,000 constituents and holds tremendous sway over things such as development and homelessness policy in their territory.
While yet another election prompts a sense of voter fatigue, the ballot is shaping up to be a humdinger (the 1940s can have their word back now). Here is an early look at the 2024 L.A. City Council races.
Council President Paul Krekorian is termed out, opening this San Fernando Valley seat that includes the neighborhoods of North Hollywood, Studio City and Toluca Lake. Former State Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian is employing a familiar strategy: Try to scare off competitors by raising a boatload of money early—he pumped $176,000 into his campaign war chest by the reporting period of Dec. 31, according to City Ethics Commission filings. That’s almost 16 times the $11,360 raised by Jillian Burgos, who advocates for things like expanding the size of the Council. A third person who filed papers to raise money, Manuel Gonez, has yet to report raising any cash.
Numerous city lawmakers have previously served in state office, but Sacramento experience is no guarantee of victory. Expect the field of candidates to grow.
In 2020, Nithya Raman became the first person in Los Angeles in almost two decades to beat an incumbent, when she knocked off David Ryu. Bizarrely, the progressive pol’s next run may be even more difficult—that’s because her territory was chopped up in the now infamous city redistricting process. About 40 percent of District 4 is new and sprawls far—the Fourth includes everything from parts of Silver Lake and Los Feliz to Encino and Reseda.
Raman won by igniting progressives and activating an army of volunteers, and she now chairs the Council’s important Housing Committee. She should not have difficulty raising money, but she may see a challenge from Ethan Weaver, a neighborhood prosecutor in the City Attorney’s office, who in the first sentence of his first email to voters harps on homelessness and “crumbling infrastructure.” Former Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell is listed as one of the hosts for a Weaver fundraiser this month.
Again, expect the field to grow.
Call this the oddest election on the local ballot. The Valley seat covering Pacoima, Panorama City, and parts of Van Nuys was formerly represented by Nury Martinez, who immolated in October after the racist recording of a secret meeting she attended became public. A special election to fill the seat takes place April 4, though a new rep likely won’t be seated until after a June 27 runoff.
This means the incumbent will immediately be thrust back into campaign mode—good luck learning how to do an incredibly difficult job when you need to fundraise and ensure your next win. The bumpy times in the Valley will continue.
Perhaps the only slam dunk on the local ballot will be for this South Los Angeles seat. Marqueece Harris-Dawson first won the post in 2015 and chairs the Council’s influential Planning and Land Use Management Committee. He ran unopposed in 2020 and is considered a potential successor to Krekorian as Council president.
The 2022 election cycle taught L.A. that no Council seat is ever 100 percent safe, but Harris-Dawson appeals to a progressive crowd that is powering change in other districts. Expect him to coast.
The contest for the territory that includes West Adams, Mid-City and Koreatown is gonna be a doozy. Heather Hutt represents the district, but she wasn’t elected—Nury Martinez engineered her appointment to the post after Mark Ridley-Thomas was suspended following his indictment by federal authorities. So we have no clue what level of support Hutt has in the community, or how adept she is at fundraising and campaigning.
She’ll have to battle State Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a veteran of numerous elections who will seek to woo progressive voters. Also in the mix are two people who lost to Ridley-Thomas in 2020: Grace Yoo (who made the runoff) and Channing Martinez (felled in the primary).
John Lee is the incumbent, but his win in 2020 was a squeaker, with just 50.6 percent of the vote. He, too, is going for big cash early—he raised $143,000 by the end of 2022.
The district that includes Porter Ranch, Chatsworth and Granada Hills is L.A.’s most Republican-friendly territory, but progressive candidate Loraine Lundquist kept it close four years ago. The only person registered to run against Lee is Michael Benedetto, whose splash photo on his website shows him in front of the Air Force 1 display in the Reagan Presidential Library. So assume he’s not angling for the lefty crowd.
If any contest will juice L.A. Twitter, this is it. The seat is held by Kevin de León, who crushed four challengers in 2020 and then finished third in a run for mayor. He was on the leaked tape where Martinez spewed her bile, and many remain angry over some of his comments, and that he didn’t confront Martinez at the time.
Right now there is an air of uncertainty around the race. An effort to force a recall election is underway, and de León has yet to file papers to raise money for the 2024 contest. If he runs, he may be more formidable than some think—activists want his resignation, but the vote depends on inhabitants of Boyle Heights, Downtown, Eagle Rock and some other Northeast L.A. neighborhoods. This includes many people who previously supported him, some multiple times.
Already registered to raise money are Nick Pacheco, who served on the City Council two decades ago, and attorney Ysabel Jurado. Once again, expect the field to grow, and the rhetoric to be nasty.
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