Los Angeles City Council races heat up with 2 weeks to go

Incumbent Jose Huizar is facing stiff competition from challenger Rudy Martinez.
Incumbent Jose Huizar is facing stiff competition from challenger Rudy Martinez. J. Emilio Flores/Getty Images

Just two weeks are left before Los Angeles voters make their choices to fill seven City Council seats. A number of important issues will face the new City Council, including dealing with the projected $530 million budget deficit for next fiscal year and deciding on a new NFL stadium proposal.

The most interesting race may be in the 8th City Council District. The district lies just below the 10 Freeway, just west of the 110 Freeway. Incumbent councilman Bernard Parks is defending his seat against Forescee Hogan-Roweles, CEO of Community Financial Research Center, a community development organization.

Parks is facing strong opposition from labor unions. Parks is the head of the City Council's budget committee, a fiscal conservative who's pushed furloughs, pushed layoffs and pushed for higher contributions from public employees to health care.

Unions have spent large sums in independent expenditures to defeat Parks. These unions include the police union and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents Department of Water and Power employees.

The race in the 14th District has been getting dirty. Incumbent Jose Huizar is facing an old friend, Rudy Martinez. Martinez used to raise money for Huizar, and Martinez's mother also worked for him.

Now Martinez says Huizar hasn't been paying enough attention to his district. Martinez is a former bad boy who's had several run-ins with the law, but now owns a restaurant. He also starred on A&E's home improvement program "Flip This House."

Martinez has put his own money into the race. There was controversy earlier when Huizar's chief of staff called Martinez a "vile bag of tripe" in an internal memo that led to that chief of staff being fired.

In the Western San Fernando Valley's District 12, voters will be choosing a brand new city councilmember. Greig Smith, the incumbent, is leaving office before being termed out, unlike most others. Smith's chief of staff Mitch Englander is the odds-on favorite, despite facing five others in the race.

Englander has had lots of contact with developers, who've put lots of money behind him. Englander is also a reserve police officer, like his boss, so he's backed by the police officers association. Englander's position as second-in-command has made him so well known that he's likely to win this race.

There are four other City Council races on the March 8 ballot - the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 10th district seats. One of those with more tension than the others is the race for incumbent Tom LaBonge's seat in the 4th District.

LaBonge faces two challengers: bicycle activist Stephen Box, who was recently featured in an L.A. Weekly article, and Tomás O'Grady, an environmentalist. The winner will represent an area that includes parts of Hollywood, Los Feliz, Griffith Park, Silver Lake and the San Fernando Valley.

Incumbents Paul Krekorian in the 2nd District, Tony Cardenas in the 6th and Herb Wesson in the 10th face a lack of challengers. Despite an era of discontent, there are no really strong challengers against these incumbents, despite the City Council having as much impact on the life of the average citizen as their congressman or state assemblyman.

Turnout in non-mayoral election years like this one can drop as low as 10-15 percent. These races could be decided by 15,000 voters, despite those being elected representing a quarter million. There may be a higher turnout than usual in Bernard Parks' district, but it isn't likely elsewhere, as people pay more attention to the president, the governor and the mayor to some extent.

- Frank Stoltze, Mike Roe & Madeleine Brand

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