Politics

LA City Council candidate on the ropes as offensive posts cost him endorsements

Joe Bray-Ali, running for City Council in Los Angeles in District 1, is apologizing for offensive posts online, but key backers are pulling their endorsements -- including one from the Los Angeles Times.
Joe Bray-Ali, running for City Council in Los Angeles in District 1, is apologizing for offensive posts online, but key backers are pulling their endorsements -- including one from the Los Angeles Times.
Courtesy of Joe Bray-Ali

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First District City Council candidate Joe Bray-Ali is in trouble. It was revealed that he posted offensive comments online, and he’s apologized. But his campaign is showing signs of imploding.

One of the online forum threads Bray-Ali posted on is named for the n-word. Another is named “Fat People Hate." Bray-Ali posted on these and other forums on Voat, which bills itself as a community platform with "no censorship." In one conversation, he criticized gender reassignment surgery as “a shameful excess.” The website LAist posted screen shots of the comments.

Bray-Ali admits he posted the comments and was contrite Thursday as he spoke with KPCC on the phone.

“No one wants anyone running for public  office to say things like that…I didn’t know what I was talking about, frankly,” he said.

Bray-Ali, who made a name for himself as a bicycle activist, has already lost major endorsements, including a coveted one from the Los Angeles Times.

Nonetheless, Bray-Ali  says he’s staying in the runoff against incumbent Gil Cedillo.

“There’s no way forward for me but forward in this election,” he said.

Dora Kingsley Vertenten, University of Southern California public policy professor, said thanks to the social media cycle, voters have short memories these days. Bray-Ali could well survive, she said, even with the election less than three weeks away.

“Americans and particularly voters in California are very sympathetic individuals to a person, who believe in the redemption of a candidate...it really depends starting now what this candidate chooses to do about it,” she said.

Ultimately, it’ll be up to voters to decide whether his apologies are enough to overcome the latest controversy in the contentious race.

Earlier this month, Bray-Ali fended off a racially tinged outburst at a community forum, where one member of the audience shouted that he should "go back to India." The candidate is U.S-born; his father is from India. 

City Council member Gil Cedillo sent an emailed statement to KPCC Thursday saying his opponent's comments "are disgraceful and have no place in the public square."

The runoff election is May 16.