Recall Effort Targeting Councilman Mike Bonin Goes Down in Flames

The acrimonious effort to unseat the controversial councilman fell short by just 1,350 signatures

A much-publicized effort to recall controversial Westside city councilman Mike Bonin fizzled out on Tuesday, when supporters of the measure couldn’t raise enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot.  According to Los Angeles City Clerk Holly Walcott, a  petition seeking Bonin’s recall was signed by 25,965 local voters, “which is 1,352 less than the 27,317 required to certify the petition as sufficient.” 

The campaign to unseat the 54-year-old politician has been gaining steam for the past six months, fueled by Westside residents who have been increasingly aggrieved over what they saw as Bonin’s mishandling of the homelessness crisis in his district. 

Opposition to Bonin intensified last summer, after a sprawling homeless encampment materialized on the Venice boardwalk, much to the consternation of area residents. Locals complained about rampant drug use and frequent brawls, and several well-publicized murders in the area further galvanized opposition to the growing homeless population. Bonin, who has spoken candidly about his own homelessness during his youth, opposed growing calls to remove the encampment. He called instead for a plan relying on social workers instead of cops, with a nonprofit matching the unhoused with temporary housing until more permanent lodging became available. 

Successful recall campaigns against council members are exceedingly rare—the last city councilman recalled from office was Lester Rice Ray in 1927, said independent historian Tom Sitton. But conservative groups and neighborhood associations believed that Bonin was a vulnerable target, and even Bonin’s progressive allies privately admitted that his seat could be at risk.

The campaign against Bonin was promoted on Facebook and on community apps like NextDoor.  It was also supported by LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who showed up on the Venice boardwalk last spring in his trademark cowboy hat at the head of a group of deputies to castigate liberals who “refuse to regulate public space.”

But even with the sheriff’s support, and the assistance of a small army of signature-collecting volunteers, recall proponents were unable to secure enough valid signatures to get the measure to a vote,  the City Clerk said.

While Bonin supporters breathed a sigh of relief at the news, they acknowledged that their victory was a bit too close for comfort. It was the closest recall attempt any city council member has faced in many years. Bonin himself warned his followers that the fact that political operatives had come within 1,350 signatures of triggering a recall in the liberal Valhalla of LA would only encourage more and better-organized attempts in the future.

But he didn’t dwell on that for long.

“Great news!” the councilman said in a jubilant tweet thread announcing the news. “The effort to recall me from office has failed. It didn’t qualify for the ballot. Today is the end of a wasteful, distracting abuse of the electoral process.  But it’s nowhere near the end of attacks on our progressive values and solutions to homelessness.”

An organizer with a pro-Bonin group attributed the councilman’s razor-thin margin of victory to an outreach drive to dissuade voters in the district from signing the petition. 

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