Challengers Fail To Oust Incumbents In L.A. City Council Races
Voters in the City of Los Angeles on Tuesday had a chance to oust six incumbent city councilmembers and replace another one that is retiring. Their ballots also offered them the chance to help the city through an economic crisis by imposing more oversight on the nation's largest municipal utility provider and even taxing nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries.
Below we highlight scenes from the polls and bring you the latest results on the competitive city council races and major ballot measures.
UPDATED: 5:30 a.m. with nearly all ballots counted.
District 4: O'Grady Remains Upbeat Through Election Night
Tom LaBonge: 55% - RE-ELECTED
Tomas O’Grady: 31%
Stephen Box: 14%
Ten-year City Council veteran incumbent Tom LaBonge faced opposition from both writer and producer Stephen Box and L.A. Times-endorsed businessman and education advocate Tomas O’Grady. When LaBonge ran in 2007, he carried 100 percent of the vote. Both candidates fought hard to unseat him, however, especially O’Grady, with his platform of cutting government waste. One voter said she cancelled her subscription to the Times after LaBonge didn't get an endorsement.
In a last minute bit of campaign confusion, mysterious robocalls in support of LaBonge from a character named “Mike” accused the liberal O’Grady of being a Republican, saying, "Tom LaBonge's opponents are running a negative Tea Party-style campaign against Tom… In fact the campaign manager for Tom's opponent is a Right-wing Republican who worked for George W. Bush. Please join Democrats, and say no to the Republican mudslinging, and say yes to Tom LaBonge."
A Neon Tommy reporter spent an afternoon with LaBonge just before the final weekend of the campaign and concluded, "While the overly gregarious councilman may seem more comfortable in a track suit than a business blazer, there is no denying that his amiable nature stems from an actual concern for the people in his district."
Bernard Parks: 51% - RE-ELECTED
Forescee Hogan-Rowles: 44%
(Credit: Dan Watson and Sarah Golden)
It originally appeared as if Parks, the former police chief and 38-year police force veteran, would not face a serious challenger. But that was until the L.A. County Federation of Labor dumped $20,000 into Forescee Hogan-Rowles’ campaign at the beginning of the race. In all, three labor groups put a sum of $1 million behind Hogan-Rowles.
Parks has been known for his tough dealing with unions and developed a reputation as a disciplinarian during his stint as police chief. He had encouraged layoffs to deal with the city budget crisis, and his own pension had come under fire from critics who cited it as a sign of hypocrisy.
In a fierce debate leading up to the election, Hogan-Rowles, a former Department of Water and Power commissioner, took him to task for his lavish retirement benefits and accused him of losing touch with the community. Parks fired back, saying she lacked the financial credentials to deal with the city’s $350 million budget deficit.
In a last-minute gaffe leading up to election week, the L.A. Chamber of Commerce released a pro-Parks mailer that included endorsements from a variety of individuals – many of whom are deceased. Parks didn't turn out to one of the last candidate forums in the district, allowing the race's third candidate to finally get in a word edgewise.
Several polling locations were very quiet on Tuesday afternoon in district eight.
Jose Huizar: 65% - RE-ELECTED
Rudy Martinez: 35%
(Credit: Benjamin Gottlieb)
Doubtlessly, the fiercest campaign in the March 8 elections has been in District 14, which includes such demographically divergent areas as Boyle Heights and Eagle Rock.
Huizar, a veteran of local politics, and Martinez, a newcomer best known for staring on the reality TV show “Flip This House,” were once friends. But became mudslinging enemies early in the campaign. A Huizar research consultant was fired for sending an email to 28 allies in which he said the election would put “a political bullet in Rudy Martinez’s head.”
The L.A. Times, which endorsed Martinez, credited the challenger with having a deep connection with the district’s neighborhoods. But few news reports paid attention to much except the political drama itself.
At one polling location Tuesday, an LAPD officer said he was voting for Martinez because Huizar was too similar to Mayor Antonio Villraigosa.
As it turned out, Huizar bested Martinez two-to-one.
"The numbers aren't quite what we wanted them to be, but my God what an experience it has been," Martinez said in his concession speech shortly after Huizar declared victory.
Measure L – Reassignment of funds for library system
Yes: 63% - PASSED
The idea, which was originally pushed by Councilman Bernard Parks, was supposed to combat budget cuts to libraries by moving public money around rather than levying a parcel tax. Supporters said the libraries had already shared more than their fair share of the budget burden and that libraries provide vital educational and social services.
Both the Daily Breeze and the L.A. Times urged “No” votes on Measure L, arguing that it would cut $50 million from the city’s general fund, which would result in cuts to other vital services, but it’s uncertain what would have been cut to make up for the loss.
Measure M – Tax on medical marijuana
Yes: 59% - PASSED
While it seemed fairly straightforward at the outset, the legal complications around Measure M quickly became, um, hazier.
Supporters of the measure argued that it would generate $10 million in revenue for Los Angeles. Opponents said it would be more complicated than that, partly because the sale of marijuana is still a federal crime and partly because medical marijuana dispensaries are supposed to be non-profit organizations and it would be legally complicated to tax them.
Several cities, such as Oakland, Berkeley, Sacramento, San Jose and Long Beach, have approved such taxes, but Measure M was opposed from everyone from the L.A. Times to the 420 Times to medical pot advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (because they don’t want users to be hit with new taxes).
Mom-and-pop pot shops argued that the new taxes would force them out of business.
Measure O - Tax on oil companies
No: 51% - FAILED
Measure O, if passed, would impose a $1.44-per barrel tax on oil extracted in Los Angeles, generating $4 million per year for the city’s general fund. Some environmental groups criticized the plan because the money would not go to renewable energy. L.A. is one of the few cities to not levy such a tax, but the L.A. Times still urged a “no” vote.
The measure faced opposition from small, independent oil companies and their political action committees. City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, a likely candidate for Jane Harman’s vacant Congressional seat, originally proposed the measure, but withdrew her support because, she said, it would be smothered by spending from “Big Oil.”
See our pre-election coverage here.
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