Kevin de León says of constituents: 'If I were to step down, then they'd have no voice in City Hall'

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Saturday, October 22, 2022
Kevin de León tells ABC7 in interview: 'It's not about me'
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In an interview with ABC7's Marc Brown, embattled Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de León discussed his decision to remain in office despite widespread calls for him to resign.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- In an interview with ABC7's Marc Brown on Friday, embattled Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de León discussed his decision to remain in office despite widespread calls for him to resign.

The pressure for De León to step down stems from his involvement in a recorded conversation in which Latino officials made crude, racist remarks and plotted to expand their political power.

The scandal already has led to the resignation of former City Council President Nury Martinez.

After speaking one-on-one with several news outlets this week, in which he apologized for what he described as a failure of leadership, De León was asked if he hopes the interviews will help him to stay on as a councilmember.

"No, because -- this is ultimately -- it's not about me," De León responded. "It, ultimately, it's about the voice of my constituents for (Council District) 14 -- a district that for decades, if not for generations, has been historically marginalized for a variety of reasons. If I were to step down, then they'd have no voice in City Hall."

Could there not be someone else who could step in and represent the people of that district?

"I'm not the only one who can represent them, and I know that," De León said. "But if a caretaker were to replace me, if I were to step down, then they would have no vote in City Hall. That's just the bottom line. This is a district that has been underrepresented, it's a district that has been undersourced, it's a district that has been underfinanced."

The City Council held a meeting on Friday for the first time since De León announced that he does not plan to resign.

The council has so far conducted its business this week despite de León and fellow Councilman Gil Cedillo continuing to resist calls to step down, with just 10 members -- the minimum for a quorum -- present for most of Tuesday and Wednesday's meetings. Neither de León nor Cedillo have attended a council meeting since last Tuesday, when they were forced to leave the chamber as protesters shouted at them.

The October 2021 conversation between De León and fellow Councilmembers Nury Martinez and Cedillo, along with Ron Herrera, president of the L.A. County Federation of Labor, included racist comments and discussions over favorable redistricting.

"That moment, that meeting that we're talking about today -- I failed in that moment," De León told ABC7.

Is that to say that in no other circumstances has he failed in that way?

"No -- in no other circumstances," De León responded. "I failed when they were disparaging our Oaxaca community. It's a community that I love dearly, that I've always stepped up for, to protect the various dialects, the various indigenous groups within the Oaxacan community -- Mixtecos, Zapotecos -- I've always stepped up.

"At that moment, you couldn't see it but I had a vary disparaging look on my face. But I should have verbalized my opposition to what was being said."

What would convince De León to step down?

"Ultimately, my constituents elected me," he said. "It's the choice of my constituents to do -- if it is their decision that I move forward and step down, then I'll accept it."

Members of the public who attended Friday's City Council meeting, which was held virtually, expressed anger over De León and Cedillo's continued tenure in office.

"Stop this meeting," one man said during the public comment section. "No 'business as usual' with the racist Kevin De León and Gil Cedillo on City Council. The public is already deep in the work to recall KDL but this council continues to fail its city as it continues to normalize the motives which we've seen those councilmembers express."