Bernard Parks Narrowly Avoids Run-Off, Re-Elected
Bernard Parks earned a third term on the Los Angeles City Council Tuesday night, but not before a fierce fight from Forescee Hogan-Rowles, who nearly rode union money to a runoff in the 8th District City Primary.
Parks, the former LAPD police chief and 38-year police force veteran, endured a late rally from Hogan-Rowles, who, despite having no chance to win the majority of votes, nearly watched Parks’ vote percentage drop below the necessary 50 percent, plus one, to avoid a run-off on May 17.
Parks claimed victory at 1:20 a.m. Wednesday. He received just under 51 percent of the vote, claiming about a 1,000 more votes than Hogan-Rowles.
Three labor groups poured about $1 million behind Hogan-Rowles, making her a serious challenger. Parks’ call for city employee cuts to solve a budget shortfall was met with much resistance within his district.
"Clearly to stand up to people that thought they could buy this seat is rewarding," Parks said at his victory party early Wednesday. "To be able to adjust and deal with things that we've seen in the district and provide jobs and business are also rewarding. I think it's been a great day for the people of the eighth district. They came through. They're smarter than what people want to give them credit for."
He survived an attack coming from a number of angles.
Hogan-Rowles built her campaign on the high unemployment in the district, sustained under Parks’ watch.
Parks, however, was effective in warning voters not to chance-it on challengers with little city government experience, especially in a time of economic crisis.
"The final push was very important to keep us from a runoff," Parks said. "I think the issues are, clearly, we are looking forward to the next four years, but we want to establish the things that we've heard from the community."
Voters rewarded him with a final term in a district stretching from Baldwin Hills to near the 105 Freeway, even after a late-campaign public relations nightmare.
On Tuesday, PR consultant Ruben Gonzalez resigned a week after a Pro-Parks mailer circulated from the L.A. Chamber of Commerce listing a number of dead people as supporters, compiled by Gonzalez. Gonzalez used an endorsement list that was eight years old.
It didn’t stop Parks and his campaign from partying Tuesday night.
Parks’ party played out at the Regency West, about one mile away, and about three times the size of his toughest opponents’ party.
Balloons blanketed the walls as clips of Parks played on two high definitions TVs. Bartenders mixed drinks for celebratory members, who sat comfortably at tables, or danced on the dancefloor.
On the other hand, Hogan-Rowles held her party near Leimert Park, in a much more modest fashion.
“Living in America” blared over the speakers following a furious finish to day-long phone calling. Many campaign members called potential last-minute voters on their cell phones up until 8 p.m. ― closing time for the polls.
The members crammed into a thin room along Crenshaw Blvd. One member set up a projection screen in anticipation of Hogan-Rowles’ arrival.
Among the supporters was LA County Second District Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who spent much of his day supporting Hogan-Rowles.
“My involvement has been to walking the precincts today, and doing some phone calling to those identified as non-committal, and to the encourage the troops that we can do this," he said. "And to do what Trojans do, fight on.”
Hogan-Rowles argued that parks has grown apart from his constituents and has done little to draw business into the area, as evidenced by the continual failure of Marlton Square, a long-term project mired in bankruptcy and stalled since 2003, according to Hogan-Rowles.
When criticized by his opponents for not creating enough jobs, Parks often remarked that his district was the only one in the city of L.A. in the last two years to increase jobs.
Hogan-Rowles downplayed the statistic.
Marlton Square was a point of contention for voters on Tuesday.
“There it sits, the money got messed up and nothing’s been done,” said voter Phillip McAllister. “It’s ugly. It’s a blight.”
But he doesn’t blame Parks, like some do.
“How are you going to start jobs until you get the company going?” he said. “And how are you going to get the company going until you agree on the bids? It’s been crazy. It’s been a childish fight.”
Earlier in the day, the polls were “moderate”, if not slow, around the headquarters of both candidates.
Aronia Parhams, a polling station inspector from Inglewood, relished the chance to see Parks vote at her station in the morning.
She even snatched a photo.
“My grandkids know who he is,” Parhams said. “That’s someone we could put in the scratchbook. And be proud of. We know a man that made a difference.”
Both Parks and Hogan-Rowles voted at the same station, at the Consolidated Board of Realtists ballroom. Hogan-Rowles arrived at 7 a.m. on the mark, before the doors opened, and was forced to vote from a makeshift system outside.
McAllister voted for Parks, but “I got my eyes on him,” he said. “This has been hotly contested, and is a wakeup call.”