Progressive candidates could gain power on LA City Council amid fallout over leaked audio

Josh Haskell Image
Saturday, October 29, 2022
Progressive candidates could gain power on LA City Council
Because of the power the L.A. City Council holds, political experts say a progressive wave in the city could change the course of urban politics in America for the foreseeable future.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- If you already thought the Los Angeles City Council was progressive, think again.

The Nov. 8 elections already had the potential to reshape the City Council and the city controller's office by electing a group of young progressives who have never held political office.

The leaked audio from three members of the City Council has added even more momentum to anti-establishment candidates, and the potential exists for holding seven seats on the 15-person council.

"We have a once in a generational opportunity to change the entire dynamic of the council," said Hugo Soto-Martinez, who is running for Council District 13.

"I think people are sick of the status quo, which is why a lot of these incumbents are getting voted out and why they're getting caught, because the status quo is not working," said Kenneth Mejia, who is running for L.A. City Controller.

"We're already strategizing. We're counting the numbers. We're like what can we get on this, who's going to lead on this," said Eunisses Hernandez, who is councilmember elect for district 1.

Eunisses Hernandez is the only member of the group who's already been elected, defeating Gil Cedillo back in June. But, she's confident her coalition is about to expand.

Union organizer Hugo Soto-Martinez is in a tight race with Councilman Mitch O'Farrell. Progressive Erin Darling is running to replace Mike Bonin. Darling is currently locked in a close race against Traci Park.

The leaked audio could lead to two special elections if Kevin de León changes his mind and decides to resign. All those members would join the two progressives left on the council, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Nithya Raman.

"Not following and being beholden to identity politics because we understand that the systemic issues in our communities around unaffordable housing, inaccessible daycare, lack of employment opportunities, those impact predominantly Black, brown, indigenous, LGBTQ, low-income and migrant communities," Hernandez said. "We reflect those values. We reflect that vision, which is about not leaving people behind."

"Do we think this current council is doing a good job? They're not," Soto-Martinez said. "Everyone agrees with that. What we're trying to do is bring new programs that are visionary, that have been tried in other cities that are successful."

The top priorities for this group: re-structuring LAPD's budget -- having EMTs and mental health clinicians deal with someone in a mental health crisis rather than a police officer. More tenants' rights, affordable housing and re-thinking how the city solves homelessness.

"How can the city best serve the people who live here opposed to the people who are trying to make money off the city? It doesn't matter which group you talk to, they've all felt left out of the political process. Because it's true," Soto-Martinez said. "The tapes reveal how decisions are actually made in this city. The developer influence and special interests. We don't want that."

Also part of this progressive group of candidates is Kenneth Mejia. He's running against termed-out Councilman Paul Koretz to be L.A.'s next city controller, which is the city's accountant and auditor who makes sure the $11.8 billion a year budget is being spent effectively.

"We created resources like an affordable housing map where affordable housing units are located, a map of where all city parks, dog parks are and also an analysis of park space," Mejia said.

"There are so many units in these new luxury apartments, like nice ones, that have low-income units and then when I call them, I ask 'Are these still available?' and they say 'Oh yeah,' and then I ask if they're being promoted or marketed, and they say 'No.'" Mejia said. "The city needs to do a better job at holding these properties accountable."

"You have every single former controller has endorsed against him and most traditional elected officials have endorsed against him so he could easily say, and it is true, that he is the anti-establishment candidate," said Fernando Guerra, the director of the Center for the Study of L.A. at LMU. "That's the type of person you would need in the controller's office. Someone to put a check on the establishment, and that's been a really good thing for him."

Because of the power the L.A. City Council holds, political experts say a progressive wave here could change the course of urban politics in America for the foreseeable future.