‘I’m an Outsider with Insider Experience’: A New Candidate Jumps into the Race for Mayor

Jessica Lall, CEO of the Central City Association and a working mom, is the first major non-City Hall candidate to throw her hat in the ring

The field for the 2022 Los Angeles mayor’s race, which for months has been dominated by a pair of City Hall insiders, is growing.

This morning Jessica Lall, a downtown business executive, announced that she is entering the contest to succeed a termed-out Eric Garcetti. She announced her candidacy at an event in Mar Vista, where she resides.

“I’m running for mayor because I believe our city needs a different kind of leadership; leadership that is fueled by action, creativity, inclusivity,” Lall told Los Angeles over the weekend. “I think it’s time an efficient, effective, and no-nonsense, problem-solving attitude and approach be brought to City Hall. I’m an outsider with insider experience.”

Lall has spent nearly five years as president and CEO of the Central City Association, the powerhouse advocacy and lobbying group that counts more than 300 downtown businesses, trade associations, cultural organizations, and nonprofits as members. During her time leading CCA she has pushed efforts to boost housing construction in the area, including calling for the creation of smaller and more affordable “micro-units,” and recently urged that downtown not be divided as the city maneuvers through the once-every-decade redistricting process. She has expanded and brought more diversity both to CCA’s general membership and its executive board.

She previously helmed the South Park Business Improvement District, which provides cleaning, safety, and other services to the community that includes Staples Center and numerous steel-and-glass residential and office towers. She referenced efforts such as conducting repairs of 800 neighborhood sidewalks as indicative of the “nuts and bolts” work that happened under her watch.

Lall, 37, is the daughter of a father who immigrated from New Delhi to the United States at age 21 to pursue a Ph.D. in computer science, and a mom who was a “military brat” and hailed from Oklahoma. Lall was born in Houston, and lived in places as disparate as Texas and England. She came to Los Angeles in 1999 and attended Taft High School in Woodland Hills for one year.

She is a USC graduate—where she was student body president—and worked for Austin Beutner when he was a top deputy to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Lall later was a senior policy director for economic development under Villaraigosa.

She is the third major candidate to enter the race, following City Attorney Mike Feuer, who launched his campaign shortly before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, and who has raised $721,000; and District 15 Councilmember Joe Buscaino, who has pulled in $818,000. The primary election is in June, less than nine months from now. If no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to a November runoff.

The list of declared and potential candidates is generating scrutiny among City Hall watchers. Council member Mark Ridley-Thomas and Council President Nury Martinez both surprised observers recently with announcements that they will not run. Still, the field could soon grow thick with heavy hitters. District 14 Councilman Kevin de León is known to be eyeing the race, and popular U.S. Rep. Karen Bass recently said she is “seriously considering” entering while a grassroots movement in support of her builds. Businessman Rick Caruso, who flirted with a run in 2013, is also being watched closely.

Lall said her time leading CCA and the South Park BID, combined with her government experience, make her qualified to be mayor, even without having held elected office in the past. She equates being held accountable to businesses and downtown residents who demand results and transparency as a facsimile to responding to constituent calls and providing solutions to citywide challenges.

“It’s not like I’m coming in as someone who has never worked within city government, has not worked on the issues,” she said. “I have a strong track record of both over the last decade. I don’t think being a career politician is necessarily the criteria that determines how effective you will be at solving people’s problems and understanding what people’s problems are.”

Like nearly everyone running for any city office next year, Lall identifies homelessness as the defining issue facing Los Angeles. During this morning’s announcement she detailed a seven-point plan to address the crisis. She said she intends to focus on ascertaining what kind of help each individual experiencing homelessness needs, with an emphasis on providing mental health and substance abuse support. She also aims to ensure that the city enacts legally sound policies that can survive challenges in court.

She bristled as what can seem like a piecemeal approach to homelessness depending on what neighborhood one is in.

“We cannot do this council district by council district. This has to be a citywide effort,” she said.

Lall’s campaign manager is Bill Carrick, the political mastermind who has worked on successful mayoral runs for Garcetti, Jim Hahn, and Richard Riordan. Yet the 2022 race will be far different than any contest this millennium—Los Angeles has shifted elections from odd-numbered years, when turnout meandered around 20 percent, to align with state and federal voting in even-numbered years.

The 2020 City Council races saw voter participation grow by as much as 300 percent over the prior election cycle. Lall believes this bodes well for a first-time candidate like her.

“This race is wide open. You’re going to see unprecedented voter turnout,” she said. “A lot of people coming to vote have never voted in a local race. The general idea, that name ID has been important, I think is completely turned upside down when one in four voters will be under the age of 34.”

Lall will continue to helm the CCA while she runs for mayor.

The candidate, the mother of a one-year-old, also believes other factors will resonate with Angelenos come election day.

“I am a woman of color. I think my story is the L.A. story,” she said. “I am a working mom, and working parents know how to get to the point and get things done.”

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