Ranking All 15 Los Angeles Election Day Ballot Battles!

Cityside Column: Rick Caruso, Karen Bass, Mitch O’Farrell and Alex Villanueva are just the tip of the iceberg as vote-tabulating day arrives
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The money has been raised and mostly spent. You’ve been robotexted by campaigns so often that you considered changing your number. Even Rick Caruso is now tired of the incessant Rick Caruso commercials.

Finally, election day is upon us, and once the polls close at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, the votes will be tabulated.

As we shift from campaigning to counting, the candidates—and the people who love and are paid handsomely by them—await their fates. Los Angeles is not only running down what’s on the ballot, but is ranking all 15 city and county contests (though not school board or ballot measures), from bottom to top, based on importance, unpredictability of results, and sheer entertainment value.

No, the race for mayor is not number 1.

 

Tier 6: The Slam Dunks

15) City Council District 3

14) City Council District 7

13) County Assessor

12) County Supervisor District 1

In the races for a pair of San Fernando Valley council seats, District 3 incumbent Bob Blumenfield and District 7 office holder Monica Rodriguez have no reason to sweat. Each has deep financial backing, a well-honed campaign machine and endorsements up the proverbial wazoo. Their challengers Scott Silverstein (District 3) and Elisa Avalos (District 7) may be well-intentioned, but each is outmatched. These are tanks trampling daisies.

Most Angelenos have no idea what the county assessor does except assess the heck out of things, but well-regarded incumbent Jeffrey Prang faces little heat from three barely known challengers. In the massive Second Supervisorial District, incumbent Hilda Solis has five competitors, including one who shares her last name (Tammy Solis), but the veteran pol has money, labor backing and a long political record. No one will touch her.

 

Tier 5: Some Big Names

11) City Council District 15

10) County Supervisor District 3

Likely the biggest question in the race to represent San Pedro, Watts and other District 15 neighborhoods is, can deep-pocketed Tim McOsker gets more than 50 percent of the vote, or will he be pushed into a runoff? The $695,000 he spent by June 1 is about $440,000 more than his three competitors combined, and independent groups dropped another $317,000 pushing McOsker. The rivals are more than speed bumps, as Anthony Santich has raised a not-insignificant $112,000, and Danielle Sandoval scored the L.A. Times’ endorsement. Still, McOkser has a revving political machine.

Six people are on the ballot hoping to succeed outgoing District 3 Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, but this ultimately is a race of three people: state Senators Bob Hertzberg and Henry Stern, and West Hollywood City Councilmember Lindsay Horvath. All are solid blue Democrats with records of achievement and each has raised decent money. Hertzberg has spent a career repping the San Fernando Valley, and after a recent redistricting process a large swath of the Valley is now in the Third. But Stern and Horvath have been running hard and can’t be counted out. This could be a game of political musical chairs: three people vying for two spots in the runoff.

 

Tier 4: Beyond Thunderdome

9) City Council District 9

8) City Council District 1

The 1985 film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome was terrible, but had an unforgettable moment when, in the lead-up to the battle between Max and Blaster, the crowd chants, “Two men enter, one man leaves.” Tweak it and you’ve got the 2022 L.A. political equivalent: In Districts 9 and 1, two candidates enter, one candidate leaves. Neither of these races will go to a runoff.

District 9 pits incumbent Curren Price against challenger Dulce Vasquez. While Price has the monetary advantage, and the backing of the L.A. County Democratic Party and players such as Sen. Alex Padilla, Vasquez has fared well in the money game and boasts the endorsements of the L.A. Times and the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce. The district is overwhelmingly Latino, but the post has long been held by an African-American. Here, turnout is everything.

The District 1 battle has turned muddy. Incumbent Gil Cedillo talks up building affordable housing and boasts the backing of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Challenger Eunisses Hernandez is running to his left and bears the endorsement of the L.A. Times and the Democratic Socialists of America-L.A. chapter. Hernandez claims Cedillo answers too much to developers. Cedillo says Hernandez will let criminals run wild by abolishing the LAPD. Attack mailers from both camps have filled local homes. No love is lost here.

 

Tier 3: Citywide Tangles

7) City Attorney

6) City Controller

The next City Attorney will immediately become one of the most powerful people in Los Angeles, and a frontrunner in the 2030 mayor’s race (!!), but the contest has been oddly overlooked. Still, it’s a beautiful mess, and is almost guaranteed to go to a runoff. But who is getting there? Kevin James, the longtime president of the Board of Public Works, has the backing of a coterie of labor unions, raised more money from donors than anyone else, and claims the endorsement of Mayor Eric Garcetti. Hydee Feldstein Soto was endorsed by the L.A. Times. Marina Torres is an ex-federal prosecutor whose backers include ex-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Teddy Kapur has a fat war chest. The progressive crowd that hates Rick Caruso adores Faisal Gill, though seems to have conveniently ignored the fact that Gill, like the mall master, is largely self-funding his campaign, with more than $1.1 million in personal loans. Richard Kim and Sherri Cole bring the ballot to a stuffed seven people. Oy vey!

Historically City Controller has been overlooked, but the contest to be L.A.’s fiscal watchdog has turned testy. Those who lean left love Kenneth Mejia, and he appears well positioned to reach the runoff. However, reporting by Los Angeles and others revealed that on Twitter Mejia called Joe Biden a rapist and a racist, and that his campaign has been paying people who have disrupted mayoral forums. The best-funded person in the race is termed-out Councilman Paul Koretz, but former mayoral aide Reid Lidow has built a sizable war chest and has campaign smart-guy Bill Carrick in his corner. David Vahedi has also done well financially. Expect a runoff to be especially caustic.

 

Tier 2: Hello Nasty

5) City Council District 5

4) City Council District 11

3) City Council District 13

Things are chippy in the contest to fill a termed-out Koretz’s District 5 seat. Attorney Sam Yebri has raised $845,000—more than anyone running for any council post, incumbents included—and has endorsements including County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, former Congressman Henry Waxman and the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce. He has exchanged barbs with Katy Young Yaroslavsky, a deputy to Sheila Kuehl who has the backing of the L.A. Times and Planned Parenthood, and a war chest of more than $600,000. Candidates Jimmy Biblarz and Scott Epstein are comparatively outfunded, but have shown in debates that they know their stuff and understand the district. It’s uncertain if this ends Tuesday, or if it continues to an even more contentious round 2.

The race to fill the District 11 post being vacated by Mike Bonin is the equivalent of a wrestling battle royale, and six of the eight contenders have deep community connections, quality endorsements, figurative bags of cash, or all three. Homelessness is the defining issue in the quest for the seat that includes Venice and other Westside enclaves. While candidates like Erin Darling try to woo Bonin’s progressive fans, others, like Traci Park, are positioned as the anti-Bonin. Greg Good boasts deep City Hall support, and Allison Holdorff Polhill and Michael Newhouse are among four candidates who have eclipsed $200,000 in fundraising. I have no idea who is making the runoff, and unless you’re fixing the election, then neither do you.

The District 3 race is like a four-on-one knife fight. Incumbent Mitch O’Farrell far outraised his foes as he seeks a third term representing Silver Lake, East Hollywood and parts of Northeast L.A. He is being relentlessly attacked by everyone else, primarily over his response to homelessness and the cleanup of Echo Park Lake. However, the most interesting question may be, will left-leaners Hugo Soto-Martinez, Kate Pynoos and Albert Corado cannibalize each other on election day? Pynoos got the endorsement of the L.A. Times and Soto-Martinez is backed by his employer, union UNITE HERE Local 11, and progressive organization Ground Game L.A. Expect the ugly to continue right until polls close… and then to keep going.

 

Tier 1: All the Marbles

2) Mayor of Los Angeles

1) County Sheriff

The race for mayor has been epic, with billionaire Rick Caruso obliterating spending records—north of $40 million!—and seizing control of the narrative thanks to a crack campaign team and a sharply defined strategy. This race would rank at the top of the list in any normal year, but the drama is slightly dulled by the consensus that the mall guy will move to a November runoff against U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, and that Councilmember Kevin de León will finish third. The biggest question seems to be, who will come in first? My biggest question is, which number will be higher: the amount of money in millions Caruso spends, or the percentage of votes he gets?

The best race on the ballot involves the train wreck of a sheriff known as Alex Villanueva. Everything about this has been weird. His campaign commercials are off-the-charts bizarre—one showed a kid and a mom playing with hypodermic needles in a sandpit. He attacks the media like the press corps is a whack-a-mole machine. He was the subject of brutal reports by John Oliver and the New Yorker.

But is Villanueva going down? Who knows? None of the eight contenders has sustained any momentum. Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna won the L.A. Times endorsement. Former LASD higher-up Eli Vera, now running against his ex-boss, has made waves recently by accusing Villanueva of various misdeeds. Cecil Rhambo earned a blip of notoriety last year, but is rarely discussed these days. Observers seem to think highly of LASD Lt. Eric Strong, but I’m not sure more than a dozen people could identify him.

So much is uncertain about this race, but if it goes to a runoff, then things will really get entertaining.

Happy election day.


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