The first step to taking public office in Los Angeles is not, as some might assume, winning an election. There is a basic if necessary hurdle to clear before that: qualifying for the ballot.
This is not crushingly difficult, but it does require some semblance of planning and work, or at least enough money to pay people to do that planning and work. Those hoping to appear on the June 7 primary ballot had a deadline: By 5 p.m. on Wednesday, they had to turn in “nominating petitions.” Like a choose-your-own-adventure novel, they could pick their path: Either pay a filing fee of $300 and submit the signatures of 500 registered voters from the jurisdiction they are running for, or save the cash and submit 1,000 valid names.
The office of the City Clerk must verify the signatures for each candidate, and that process is ongoing. But even before the field is fully set, it is clear that Angelenos will have a lot of options. The City Clerk is providing updates twice a day. By Friday at 5 p.m., 47 people had qualified for the ballot, and 21 others were still in play.
This is good for democracy, as unlike some occasions in the past, no candidate will get a free ride and run unopposed. While certain individuals in select races will have huge name ID and financial advantages, every voter in Los Angeles at least has a choice.
Here is how the field looks so far.
There is zero surprise that the five leading contenders for mayor have all qualified. U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, Councilmembers Joe Buscaino and Kevin de León, City Attorney Mike Feuer and developer Rick Caruso each chose to pay the fee and get the lower number of signatures. So did five others: real estate guy Mel Wilson, progressive candidate Gina Viola, tech entrepreneur Ramit Varma, neighborhood council member Alex Gruenfelder Smith, and John “JSamuel” Jackson.
Six others have turned in their petitions and are in the waiting game. If everyone qualifies, there would be 16 people running for mayor.
Big fields tend to develop when the top political job in Los Angeles is open. In 2013, eight people made the primary ballot. A dozen individuals ran for mayor in 2005.
When incumbent Feuer ran for a second term as City Attorney in 2017, he had no opposition. Things are much different this time.
Already six people have qualified for the ballot, and all went the pay route: Kevin James, Teddy Kapur, Richard Kim, Marina Torres, Hydee Feldstein Soto and Faisal Gill are all attorneys, and will all have the chance to win over voters. The signatures of one other person, Sherri Cole, were still being checked as of Friday at noon.
This race could be cataclysmic, as each of the six who already qualified has raised at least $185,000. Yet none of them are much known by voters.
If you don’t know what the City Controller does, you’re not alone. The person in the critical post functions as a fiscal watchdog. Their name also appears on the check of all municipal employees.
Even if the job is overlooked by many Angelenos, a lot of people are clawing for the chance to succeed a termed-our Ron Galperin. Six individuals who qualified paid the fee: James O’Gabhann, Reid Lidow, Paul Koretz, Rob Wilcox, David Vahedi and Stephanie Clements. Progressive candidate Kenneth Mejia made the ballot by gathering signatures and saving his $300 for something else.
In 2007, a whopping five council members ran for re-election without opposition. Uncontested wins happen less frequently now, but in 2017 District 3 rep Bob Blumenfield was solo on the ballot as he secured a second term.
Blumenfield may again have one of the easier rides. He has already qualified for the ballot, and by the end of last year had raised $213,000 for his re-election bid. The signatures of two other candidates are being verified, but neither has pulled in much money.
Two other contests could max out at three people, raising the likelihood of someone earning a majority of the vote and avoiding a November runoff. In District 1, incumbent Gil Cedillo has qualified, as has challenger Eunisses Hernandez; signatures for one other candidate are being counted. It is similar in District 7, where one-term incumbent Monica Rodriguez has a spot on the ballot, as does challenger Elisa Avalos. Again, the petition of a third candidate is being checked.
District Nine could see up to four people, two of them quite well-funded. Incumbent Curren Price, with $366,000 raised, has qualified, as has Dulce Vasquez, who has pulled in $211,000. Another two people are awaiting approval.
The incumbent with the most competition, at least in terms of number of foes, is District 13 Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, who is on the ballot. Qualified to run against him are Albert Corado, Steve Johnson, Kate Pynoos and Hugo Soto-Martinez.
Open Council Seats
It is understandable why open City Council seats tend to draw large fields. Officeholder get a salary north of $200,000, can have the job for up to 12 years, and wield incredible amounts of power. The three open seats this year is a rarity, and each race could draw six or more candidates.
In District 5, Katy Young Yaroslavsky, Jimmy Biblarz, Scott Epstein and Sam Yebri have all made the ballot. The petitions of two people are still being examined.
In District 11, where incumbent Mike Bonin announced he would not seek a third and final term, eight people could appear on the ballot. Already qualified are Erin Darling, Mike Newhouse, Allison Holdorff Polhill, Jim Murez, Greg Good and Traci Park. Two others are awaiting verification.
In District 15, incumbent Buscaino also gave up a third term in order to run for mayor. So far Tim McOsker and Danielle Sandoval have paid the fee, gotten sufficient signatures and cemented their spot on the ballot. Four other candidates are having their signatures checked.
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