EASTSIDER-Let’s be honest. Since the late 1980’s, Council District 1 has been a district deliberately created to be a majority-Hispanic council district. You can check out the history at Wikipedia.
The latest revisions to the District are the product of a particularly slimy body-swap political exercise presided over by the 2012 LA Redistricting Commission. It was so toxic that it only ended in 2015 with a federal judge’s ruling long after the 2013 election was over.
Here in Glassell Park, I guess we should be used to being treated like serfs, since we have at various times been under Council District 13 with Eric Garcetti, Council District 14 with Jose Huizar, and Council District 1, initially with Reyes and now with Cedillo.
The 2013 race to replace termed-out Ed Reyes was particularly nasty, with Cedillo, termed-out himself from the CA Legislature, running against Reyes’ Chief of Staff, Jose Gardea. You can get a taste of that debate in this LA Weekly article.
Anyhow, the 2012 redistricting did not change the 70% plus Latino nature of the District. What it did do was provide a body swap between Huizar and Reyes so that CD 14 swapped its chunk of Glassell Park and environs out for Downtown LA where Huizar could make more money with the CRA and the business/developer community. It also let Council President Herb Wesson split Koreatown into four districts for his own purposes…including a piece landing in CD 1.
With that background, it seems to me that the 800 pound gorilla in the room for the Council District 1 runoff, is whether gentrification, missteps by the incumbent, and voter turnout will flip this district to non-Latino.
How We Got to a Runoff
Between 2013 and now, many of our communities have been the beneficiaries of a gentrification tsunami in the Echo Park, Highland Park, Glassell Park and Cypress Park areas. Mt. Washington doesn’t count, since it had already been gentrified.
As Silverlake became outrageously expensive, our hillsides from Highland Park to Glassell Park became the next “new wave” of gentrification, with single family homes suddenly going for $700,000 and up. Also, condos and small lot homes are popping up like mushrooms with exorbitant prices. All this is driving out a lot of longtime residents who can’t even afford their apartments.
Regarding Gil Cedillo and Joe Bray-Ali, there is an irony in this race. When he ran in 2013, Cedillo talked to everyone; on the other hand, City Hall Insider Gardea was locked in to Ed Reyes “never met a development he didn’t like” (unless it was a single family home) remote style of governance.
This time around, Cedillo is characterized as the incumbent who loves development and doesn’t talk to the troops, while Joe Bray-Ali is the young, fresh candidate who talks to everyone. As I wrote in an earlier CW column, “Joe Bray-Ali Cleans Up Nice!”
Further, it was clear at the Sotomayor School debate that Joe had a shot -- the takeaway quote being, “of all the other candidates Joe Bray-Ali stands the best chance of getting in a runoff.”
And the results -- although initially in favor of Cedillo -- were ultimately:
While it’s nice to guess right, the margins in this race were very tight, and the number of total votes cast in a district with some quarter of a million people in it, was not so good.
The Runoff Its Own Self
Clearly Joe Bray-Ali has momentum going for him, and is garnering unusual endorsements, such as CD 13’s Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, in addition to the Los Angeles Times and a number of environmental groups like the League of Conservation Voters. And there is no question that the issue which brought Joe to everyone’s attention -- safe streets and the Bicycle Plan -- has galvanized supporters.
Gil Cedillo also has a number of endorsements, from Jerry Brown and Xavier Becerra to Mayor Garcetti and Gloria Molina. Perhaps of more use in this race are the ones from the Police Protective League, the Firefighters, and UTLA (United Teachers of Los Angeles.)
Joe’s difficulty will likely be in the area of Latino voters, inasmuch as his campaign has not achieved too much success in wooing this segment of the District to his cause. Of course Gil Cedillo’s problem is that, while the District is about 72% Latino, so far, that hasn’t translated into a huge Latino voter turnout. The trick may be how many of the Giovanni Hernandez and Jesse Rosas voters will come out and vote for Joe in the runoff.
On the other side, it seems to me that a big difficulty Gil Cedillo has is that he actually likes to govern, as in introducing City Council initiatives and motions. This probably stems from his years in the California legislature, where they make decisions on statewide issues. Trouble is, most Angelenos I know could care less about what the City Council does -- unless and until their taxes go up, a monster development invades the neighborhood, or they actually need something from their Councilmember.
The real name of the game in winning City Council Districts is going out and pressing flesh, having as many one-on-one contracts with each neighborhood as possible, and demonstrating that the Councilmember cares. Take Mitch O’Farrell as an example. He’s never met a development or developer he doesn’t love (even if the project is on a fault line) but has great constituent services staffing, and is out everywhere pressing the flesh all the time. And guess who won re-election in a walk? Mitch.
Joe Bray-Ali is out and about everywhere, while Gil Cedillo labors under the handicap of being an incumbent with a track record. The rap on him is that once elected, his team slacked off on daily outreach to the various community groups and neighborhood councils, and it was difficult to get him to go out and press the flesh of constituents. It is difficult to turn around these perceptions at election time; on the other hand, the challenger can make any promise he wants before getting elected and having to deliver.
As we speak, the East Area Progressive Democrats (EAPD), now up to about 750 members, have endorsed Joe Bray-Ali, but many of them are not in CD 1. The Northeast Democrats (NEDC) have not endorsed; however, they have scheduled a meeting for April 19 to vote on an endorsement. Of course, they are a much smaller group, but at this point everything counts.
There will also be an important candidates’ forum in the critical Westlake/Pico-Union area on April 17 at the Monsenor Romero Hall (2845 W. 7th Street, starting at 7p.m.) It should prove interesting.
Hopefully, there will be more candidate forums and events before the election, and I may write another column before the actual May 16 election date.
Not only does Joe Bray-Ali clean up nice, but my initial observation stands: “…if Joe Bray-Ali can force Cedillo into a runoff, all the electoral math changes in a hurry. If an incumbent with all the advantages can’t put the election away in the primary, he’s viewed as wounded meat and all bets are off.”
At the same time, never underestimate the value of incumbency. Mr. Cedillo did, after all, come within a hair’s breadth of winning the election outright, and I suspect that in a two-candidate race he would have won. At this point, his political back is up against the wall, and you can be sure that all stops are out.
The real question has to do with voter turnout…and the Latino vote.
Shortly after you read this article, vote-by-mail will start on April 18, and the actual runoff election date is May 16. Remember, as the primary election proved, EVERY VOTE COUNTS! If we don’t vote, complaints about the results won’t mean much.
PLEASE VOTE! We will be living with the results of this election for 5 1/2 years.
(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.