Today is Tuesday, June 8. For many people, the date is inconsequential. On the Los Angeles civic calendar, however, it is monumental: It is now less than one year until city voters choose the next mayor.
Election day arrives in exactly 52 weeks (or 364 days). For campaign strategists, and existing and aspiring officeholders, the race is on to June 7, 2022. In the coming year millions of dollars will be spent, and nearly as many doors will be knocked on as candidates seek to connect with voters. Expect a fusillade of fiery tweets, enough mailers to slay a forest, nasty hit pieces, and the occasional funny campaign video.
Some candidates have already been at it for months, and much will change over the summer and into the fall as new figures declare for a bevy of races. But the year marker is a milestone.
Here is a rundown of where some of the juiciest local races stand, and what is to come.
Eric Garcetti is termed out in December 2022, and come election day he may be happily settled in New Delhi, with an interim mayor running L.A. That possible vacancy is partly why this race is so important. Another reason: The next mayor could serve until 2030, presiding as Los Angeles welcomes major projects such as the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. If a 2026 re-election bid is successful, Garcetti’s successor will be mayor when the 2028 Summer Olympic arrive.
Who’s In?: Already 20 people have filed papers with the City Ethics Commission to raise funds for the race (many will ultimately not qualify for the ballot), but most Angelenos have likely only heard of one or two of them: They are City Attorney Mike Feuer, and District 15 Councilman Joe Buscaino. Each has a base of voters on which to build, though each also needs to spread his name ID.
Who’s Coming?: Running for mayor is expensive, and most candidates will need to declare in the next few months in order to provide time to raise sufficient funds. That is particularly true for a trio of city council members: Mark Ridley-Thomas and Kevin de León have long been discussed as likely candidates. Recently, Council President Nury Martinez indicated that she too is considering running.
There are also names outside of City Hall. Jessica Lall, the president and CEO of the powerful advocacy group the Central City Association, is known to be contemplating running. Outgoing LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner recently said being mayor is not at the top of his agenda, but many still wonder if he’ll try. Speculation also surrounds mall developer Rick Caruso, who flirted with a run in 2013. Beutner and Caruso would have to raise money, but each has the capacity to dig into his own pocket to help cover the cost.
Next month, candidates for this seat (and other contests) will reveal how much money they raised in the first half of 2021. Pay attention to the total of Kevin James, who spent seven years as the president of the Board of Public Works, and who turned himself from a fringe candidate for mayor in 2013 to a figure who is widely respected in City Hall. He launched his campaign in January and should sport a sizable war chest.
His path won’t be easy, as there is a cluster of credible candidates. Attorney and nonprofit chair Teddy Kapur had raised $180,000 by the last fundraising deadline, and Marina Torres, a federal prosecutor who worked on immigration policy in the Obama administration, has a strong campaign team and fundraising prowess. A question mark is Faisal Gill, a civil rights attorney who relocated to Los Angeles from Vermont in 2018.
Most people have no idea what a City Controller does. It’s a crucial gig, as the Controller is a fiscal watchdog who, among many others things, can order audits of city departments.
The race grew more interesting last week when Rob Wilcox entered. Wilcox is the director of Community Engagement and City Outreach for City Attorney Mike Feuer, but his resume includes serving as Deputy City Controller under Laura Chick, viewed by many as the best Controller Los Angeles has ever had.
Again, the field will be thick. The biggest name in the race is Paul Koretz, who as the District 5 council rep since 2009—and past experience as a state Assemblyman and a West Hollywood city council member—carries mega connections. He’ll be able to raise money, as will David Vahedi, the CFO of a media buying company. Then there is Kenneth Mejia; the CPA likely won’t pull in dollars on the level of his competitors, but he’ll appeal to progressive voters fed up with the status quo.
Elections are scheduled in all eight odd-numbered council districts. Council incumbents in Los Angeles rarely lose, but Nithya Raman’s upset win over David Ryu last year proves that the unexpected can happen.
The most interesting races are in District 5, where Koretz is termed out, and District 15, where Buscaino is giving up his seat to run for mayor. In the former, a trio of candidates each pulled in more than $150,000 by the last fundraising deadline. So far six people have launched campaigns to succeed Buscaino.
The Raman-Ryu race proved that liberal Democratic incumbents can be susceptible to a challenge from their left. So expect more self-styled progressives to make noise.
District 3 County Supervisor
The District 1 County Supervisor race with incumbent Hilda Solis will probably be a snorefest (she ran unopposed in 2018). But in District 3 Sheila Kuehl is stepping down, opening up a chance to represent 2 million county residents.
Outgoing City Controller Ron Galperin announced his candidacy last month, and while he is the big name, once again, the field will be full of viable candidates. Already running are West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath (endorsed by Kuehl) and State Assemblyman Richard Bloom, who has spent decades in local politics. More people will likely enter.
It is hard to overstate the importance of this race—the Third District sprawls across 431 square miles and stretches from Venice to the San Fernando Valley to portions of Silver Lake and Los Feliz. County Supes oversee a budget of more than $30 million and often serve for 12 years.
On election day in 2018, relatively unknown LASD Lt. Alex Villanueva stunned Los Angeles by knocking off his boss, Sheriff Jim McDonnell. Calling Villanueva’s ride rocky since then is an understatement: He has clashed repeatedly with the board of supervisors over his rehiring of Carl Mandoyan, whom McDonnell has dismissed following a domestic abuse investigation. Villanueva has also taken fire for the prevalence of controversial deputy cliques within the department. He has been pilloried in the press.
One of Villanueva’s top aides has turned against him—in April, Eliezer Vera, a 32-year department veteran who is Chief of the Technology and Support Division, announced his candidacy. Vera was promoted to his current high rank by Villanueva.
Vera is pledging to restore confidence in the office, though media reports have noted that he also played a key role in rehiring Mandoyan. It is the type of field that begs for an outside candidate to step up.
That could happen—after all, election day is still (almost) a full year away.
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