Wed, Jun

Los Angeles June 7 Primaries Reflect Major National Issues


LA ELECTION 2022 - The Los Angeles mayoral race has attracted national attention and seems to be dwindling down to two widely known figures (for very different reasons) who will face each other in the runoff in November.

But there are many other races, too, in the city and in L.A. County. With 88 separate municipalities, L.A. County is too big to cover all the races. We’ll focus on countywide races, the City of L.A., and mention one or two other places of interest. Unlike California statewide elections, in these local elections an outright win of 50% +1 is final and will not be further contested in November.

This article is a compendium and commentary on the races, not a through-story, so pick and choose what you need to read. Most of the candidates have their own websites and you are encouraged to consult them for much more detailed information and guidance.

Who will be L.A.’s next mayor?

The last several L.A. mayors have presided over increasing gentrification, privatization of education, high-rise development and de-industrialization, the dominance of the service economy, and the accompanying crisis of homelessness as renters have been priced out of their apartments.

Corruption and collusion between city officials and developers have become a normal feature of the municipal environment. Current Mayor Eric Garcetti has been no exception. His confirmation as Ambassador to India for the Biden Administration is stalled, ostensibly over his failure to address rampant sexual misconduct by one of his key City Hall allies, but more likely as a way to embarrass President Biden. The militancy of the 800,000-strong L.A. County Federation of Labor is a positive force for working-class electoral representation in the city and county.

This race saw early announcements from Democrats: ex-cop and City Councilmember Joe Buscaino; termed-out City Attorney Mike Feuer with egg on his face for multiple scandals involving the city-owned Dept. of Water and Power; the former educator, union organizer, first Latino leader of the California State Senate in 130 years and current City Councilman Kevin de León; and former Assembly Speaker and current Congresswoman from West and South L.A. Karen Bass; and a handful of fringe candidates.

Late in the campaign mall developer and longtime (until 2012) Republican Rick Caruso, son of the founder of Dollar Car Rental and worth over $4 billion, according to Forbes, changed his more recent No Party Preference to Democrat. So far, a trackable almost $30 million of his own funds have gone into a massive, inescapable invasion of internet space, billboards and mailers pushing his platform of hiring more cops, criminalizing unhoused people, and not releasing his full tax returns, despite running on a platform of “transparency and ethics in city hall.” Assailing ineffectual “establishment politicians,” he projects a Lone Ranger “Only I Can Fix It” attitude, which may attract some voters. Like the classic wolf in sheep’s clothing, Caruso pretends to be socially progressive, but he regularly funded anti-abortion politicians and has won over the entirety of the law-and-order constituency with promises to increase LAPD funding.

A Caruso mayoralty would surely grant even more power to the wealthy interests that already dominate the city. The Caruso race is a dagger at the heart of labor and at the few progressive measures labor and community allies have achieved.

The real story in this race is MONEY. This oligarch of a candidate would be nowhere without his billions. Any voter of conscience should reject him. Even scarier is the thought that he might do a “one-and-done”—one primary, win it outright with a “shock and awe” blitz of advertising, and avoid the months-long scrutiny of his record that would otherwise come in the months leading up to November.

Two days before the filing deadline, community activist Gina Viola entered the race, running on an explicitly anti-carceral platform emphasizing banning sweeps, cutting cops, and converting basic human needs into human rights.

Kevin de León’s endorsements include such unions as United Farm Workers, SEIU-USWW (Janitors, Security Officers, and Airport Workers), UNITE HERE Local 11, Teamsters Joint Council 42, Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA!) Local 300, and United Nurses Association of California/Union of Health Care Professionals, and prominent progressives such as State Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, Congressmember Jimmy Gomez, and quite a few more.

De León’s poll numbers have never risen above a single digit, however. At press time, Caruso and Bass were running about equally in the mid-to-upper 30s percentile, though in a strictly two-person matchup, Bass ratcheted up to 48% to Caruso’s 39%.

Karen Bass, born and raised in L.A., worked as a nurse, physician assistant and clinical instructor at USC. She founded Community Coalition in 1990, a South L.A.-based social justice organization that empowers the African-American and Latino community across generations to address substance abuse, poverty and crime.

Foster care for children became one of her top concerns. She built on her organizing prowess to become a California Assemblywoman, and rose to the Speakership during the difficult years of Gov. Schwarzenegger. She was elected to Congress in 2010, chaired the House Committee on Africa, and headed the Congressional Black Caucus. Her name was widely floated as a potential Biden VP pick.

She has brought in a wide variety of endorsements from the Black Democratic establishment, labor unions, and electeds from Mark Ridley-Thomas to DSA Councilwoman Nithya Raman. Listening to her constituents, Bass has committed not to cut LAPD staffing. Yet the rank and file right-wing L.A. Police Protective League has spent almost $4 million on attack ads against her (to favor Caruso).

Bass received a ringing endorsement from the L.A. Times: “For this race and this moment, no other candidate can match Bass’ experience, track record, sophisticated grasp of the problems plaguing Los Angeles and her vision of how to move forward.” Many Democratic clubs around the city support her, and unions including AFSCME District Council 36, California Nurses Association, Communications Workers of America Southern California Council, National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 24, National Union of Healthcare Workers, SEIU 121RN, SEIU Local 721, SEIU Local 2015, SEIU United Healthcare Workers West, Transportation Communication Union Local 1315, United Steelworkers Local 675, United Steelworkers LA/OC Legislative Education Committee, and United Teachers Los Angeles. Prominent individual endorsers include Dolores Huerta, Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Cory Booker and retired Sen. Barbara Boxer, Magic Johnson, many of her Congressional colleagues, state, county and city officeholders.

Former mayoral candidates Joe Buscaino and a wealthy upstart Ramit Varma have thrown their support to Caruso, as have celebrity supporters Gwyneth Paltrow, Scooter Braun, Ted Sarandos from Netflix, music producer Clarence Avant, Snoop Dogg, and Republican former mayor Richard Riordan. Mike Feuer has endorsed Bass.

The L.A. County Federation of Labor made no endorsement in the mayoral race. Clearly their sympathies are aligned with both de León and Bass. The Fed probably did not want to pit Bass and de León loyalists against each other. A dual endorsement might have served better.

The Top Two in the primary look like Bass and Caruso, Bass representing the progressive multiracial pro-labor, pro-immigrant, pro-woman united front movement that she has helped to amass over a long public career, and Caruso a right-wing billionaire with no experience at governance. De León, still holding out for a late surge in the Latino vote, will undoubtedly throw his support to Bass.

While this race could be won outright by 50% + 1, DSA-LA is urging a third-party vote for Gina Viola, which could serve to elect the billionaire Caruso. A Caruso administration in City Hall could reverse the city’s social service programs and pro-worker policies for years.

The potential to elect Karen Bass, a Black progressive champion of the working class, is creating tremendous excitement across the city and state. Her rise to the office of mayor would issue a sound national repudiation of the right wing and the power of extreme wealth.

Turnout is always a good idea. In this race it is absolutely critical.

A battle is underway for control of Los Angeles City Council. | AP

The L.A. City Council races

This year, it’s the odd-numbered districts, eight out of 15, in the primaries. For more information on the candidates, with links to their websites and forums, see here.

District 1’s Gil Cedillo, in office since 2013, came up through SEIU, was elected to the State Assembly and then the Senate. He’s been endorsed by the County Federation of Labor and separately by many of its main constituent unions, as well as by Sens. Alex Padilla and Bernie Sanders, Lieut. Gov Eleni Kounalakis, L.A. County D.A. George Gascón, County Supervisorss Hilda Solis and Janice Hahn, among many others.

Yet there are rumblings in his district that he hasn’t done as much for affordable housing as he professes, and that there too, as in other districts, developers have managed to push out working-class renters and people of color.

Cedillo has a strong opponent in community activist Eunisses Hernandez, who has focused her campaign on de-emphasizing police in public safety and advocating for more “investment in mental health services, public healthcare, affordable housing, public education, and workforce development.” Others of her concerns, where she says she can do better than the incumbent, are the environment, small business, and budget accountability.

She has some powerful endorsements, too: The L.A. Times, DSA, California Working Families Party, Our Revolution L.A. County, IATSE Local B-192, as well as labor icon Dolores Huerta: “Eunisses has shown bravery in fighting for her values and our communities. It takes a lot for women to challenge the power structures and demand more for our people.”

These two are the only candidates running in Dist. 1, so the June 7 vote will be decisive without a runoff. Progressives have a difficult choice here, but predictably, a majority will go to the incumbent with County Fed support, while Hernandez can prepare her future moves.

In Dist. 3 incumbent Bob Blumenfield is almost guaranteed reelection, endorsed by the County Fed and the L.A. Times.

Dist. 5 is a four-way contest now that Paul Koretz is termed out (he’s running for City Controller). Jimmy Biblarz, an openly gay UCLA law professor, advocates for low-income housing assistance, creation of an Office of Neighborhood Safety that would coordinate non-police safety tools, and infrastructure that would “disincentivize people from driving cars.” He is endorsed by Equality California.

Scott Epstein is the founder of Midtown LA Homeless Coalition, a nonprofit that connects people experiencing homelessness with services and housing; his other big issues are climate change (“a fare-free public transit system” and “a zero-carbon economy”); and reallocating police funds to housing, infrastructure social services investment. Biblarz and Epstein both are recommended by DSA.

Sam Yebri is a non-profit director in the Iranian-American Jewish community, which is his primary base, and a business owner endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, AFSCME Local 1083, United Firefighters of L.A., Painters Union DC 36, ILWU Foremen’s Union Local 94, and Sprinkler Fitters U.A. Local 709, as well as County Supervisor Holly Mitchell and retired Congressman Henry Waxman. He voices similar concerns on environment and climate, homelessness and public safety.

Katy Young Yaroslavsky is an environmental attorney and six-year senior policy director for the environment and the arts for County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. There’s general agreement with the three other candidates in the district that housing, public safety and environment are the top issues. Daughter-in-law of longtime L.A. politician Zev Yaroslavsky, she is endorsed by the County Fed, the L.A. Times, Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, local Assemblymember Isaac Bryan, and mayoral aspirant Karen Bass.

Yebri and Yaroslavsky are the probable two who will advance to the general election, and that promises to be quite a fight. Although electoral generalities can often muffle the differences among candidates, the character of their endorsements says much.

Yebri, for example is endorsed by former cop, City Councilmember—and endorser of Rick Caruso—Joe Buscaino, and by the anti-union California Restaurant Association. His campaign literature prominently states: “CLEAN CAMPAIGN: No donations from real estate developers, PACs, or special interests.”

Yet “independent” political groups can spend whatever they want as long as there is no official tie to a campaign. Yaroslavksy cites mailers from the powerful California Apartment Association, a corporate landlord lobby, that attack her, calling her a “career lobbyist” and misrepresenting her views on homelessness, among other issues.

She openly declares that such interests “are pouring record amounts of money into City Council races to take over City Hall. Now they are backing Sam Yebri for City Council, along with the downtown power brokers and corporations that count giant oil and gas among their boards of directors.” The County Fed too has sent out independent mailers, for Yaroslavsky. There’s no question she has locked up the labor vote.

In Dist. 7, the incumbent Monica Rodriguez, endorsed by the County Fed and L.A.Times, will likely win the election outright against her only opponent, political newcomer Elisa Avalos.

Dist. 9, located in South L.A., went for Sanders in the 2020 primary. It is not averse to seeking systemic changes.

Incumbent Curren Price is a steady, reliable progressive endorsed by the County Fed, perhaps not as challenging to developers as he could be (though none of the incumbents on the City Council running this year is, especially). This area has not had Latino representation for decades, although it’s 78% Latino.

Along comes Dulce Vasquez in her first try for public office, an immigrant from Mexico with bold ideas and promises to upset some aspirants to City Hall. The L.A. Times, in a surprising move, endorsed her enthusiastically.

Vasquez may well prove herself in the future, but might need time to earn a solid base. Also, issues have been raised as to her residence. With the hope that L.A. will get to know her better in the years to come, the progressive vote must go with Price, and he may win outright.

Councilmember Mike Bonin is retiring in the coastal Dist. 11. He had been a progressive advocate for services- and care-first approach to homeless outreach.

Five of the eight candidates running to replace him look right-wing. We have Allison Holdorff Polhill, a pro-charter former LAUSD Board aide; Jim Murez, Venice Neighborhood Council president, who supports the “broken windows” philosophy of policing; Traci Park, a management-side labor lawyer; Mat Smith, campaigning for “conservative values”; and Mike Newhouse, former president of the Venice Neighborhood Council, who supports anti-camping ordinances and an enlargement of the LAPD by 1500 officers. These five stand for arresting as many unhoused people as it takes to keep our precious wealthy families and Venice Beach tourists from having to see poverty.

One of the remaining three is Midsanon “Soni” Lloyd, an “anti-imperialist” teacher of government at Venice H.S. and active in UTLA, who supports more public housing and reparations for Black people in L.A., and opposes “unethical” vaccine mandates. This would not seem to be a viable campaign.

The remaining two, arguably the only two viable candidates, are Greg Good and Erin Darling. The County Fed endorses Good, an attorney, former director of the pro-labor nonprofit LAANE (L.A. Alliance for a New Economy), and subsequently a close adviser to Mayor Eric Garcetti, who entered the race as a political insider. If Bonin can be considered a left-progressive Democrat, Good is more of a labor-business moderate.

Erin Darling, endorsed by the L.A. Times, DSA, L.A. Progressive, and by Mike Bonin, Assemblymember Isaac Bryan, the California Working Families Party, and ILWU Southern California District Council, is a public interest attorney working for the Eviction Defense Network and Public Counsel, and is also a commissioner for the L.A. County Department of Beaches and Harbors. He says he is running because of the lack of a “real progressive” in the race. He favors permanent supportive housing, opposes anti-camping ordinances, and would shut down gas extraction and storage on L.A.’s Westside as part of actualizing a Green New Deal for Los Angeles. With all due respect to the County Fed, which likely got to know Greg Good during his LAANE tenure, personally I would vote for Darling if I lived in the district (which I did the first nine years of my life in L.A.).

Five candidates are running in Dist. 13, including the incumbent Mitch O’Farrell, a gay man endorsed by Equality California. As a member of the Wyandotte Nation, he is the first Native American councilmember to hold office in L.A.

The County Fed makes no endorsement in this race, which itself is a telling comment. Many observers hold him to account for his real estate donations, rapid gentrification and displacement in his district.

Hugo Soto-Martínez, endorsed by DSA and L.A. Progressive, was born and raised in South L.A., the son of immigrant street vendors. He became a union organizer with UNITE HERE! Local 11 after helping his own workplace to unionize while he was still a student at UC Irvine.

He has a forward-thinking plan to end unhoused sweeps and embrace a compassionate organizer’s approach to service provision, transforming public safety, and making environmental justice a reality. He would create 10,000 climate union jobs by 2026 by prioritizing city, state and federal funds, and replace armed officers on non-violent calls with mental health crisis teams.

The L.A. Times has endorsed Kate Pynoos, who worked on Mike Bonin’s staff to create new housing as a human need instead of a commodity, and ban campaign contributions from developers with business before the city. She also wants to ensure green energy jobs with a living wage.

Also in this race in the 13th are Albert Corado, a community organizer who wants to defund the police, provide housing by occupying units sitting empty, and institute free public transportation; and Steve Johnson, a sergeant with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept. who advocates for the unhoused, community policing, and affordable housing using tax breaks, rent control and a requirement that developers invest in the communities where they build.

With five candidates running, incumbent O’Farrell will likely snag one of the Top Two. It will be interesting to see what forces coalesce around the second candidate to face off against O’Farrell in November.

Dist. 15, which has been represented by the now termed-out Joe Busciano, comprises the Port of Los Angeles and San Pedro. Its constituency is a broad mix of Black and brown working-class populations, wealthy conservative suburbanites in San Pedro and surrounding areas, and well-organized, unionized port workers. Bernie Sanders won this district in 2020, but historically it has sent relatively conservative, but pro-union members to the City Council. Four candidates are seeking to replace Buscaino.

The current leading candidate is Tim McOsker, an excellent example of the contradictions within the labor movement. Considering himself now a businessman and CEO of an ocean sustainability non-profit, McOsker has worked for both UTLA, the progressive teachers union, and the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL), the most conservative recognized union in the city, which is uniformly opposed to progressives of any type.

The LAPPL is spending heavily (nearly $100K according to DSA) to support his campaign. Endorsed by the County Fed, McOsker lists support from a few SEIU locals, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), but also the pro-landlord California Apartment Association and Eric Garcetti. He’s taken donations from Great Public Schools Now (a pro-charter schools outfit), LA Jobs PAC (representing chambers of commerce), and a share of real estate developers. Not the usual profile of a labor-endorsed candidate!

Not everyone in organized labor has signed on to McOsker however. Former Harbor City Neighborhood Council president Danielle Sandoval has won the endorsements of UTLA, a few ILWU locals, and the California Democratic Party Chicano Latino caucus, as well as the L A  Times. Sandoval is running on a “labor progressive” platform, which includes elements of left platform planks like strengthening public education and access to good union jobs, but also a strong emphasis on small business.

Bryant Odega is a DSA member and climate justice organizer with the Sunrise Movement running on a broad socialist platform. He has a handful of like-minded endorsers. The fourth candidate is businessman Anthony D. Santich, running on the themes of hiring more district residents for port-related businesses, protecting union jobs from future automation, increasing community-based policing and increasing funding for it, and mitigating noxious environmental factors at the port.

It sounds like the general election is going to put McOsker face to face with Sandoval.


Kenneth Mejia has racked up a considerable number of progressive endorsements in his campaign for the city controller’s office. | via Mejia for Controller


City Controller, L.A.’s paymaster

Six candidates seek to become the city’s Controller (a seventh, Rob Wilcox, dropped out May 19th). This officer reviews how the city, with its multiplicity of departments, spends its money. The Controller is a watchdog against waste and corruption, one place where the city can be held accountable.

Leader of the pack, in fundraising and in his long list of endorsements, including the County Fed, is Paul Koretz, termed-out City Councilmember. But he is getting some energetic pushback from David Vahedi, Reid Lidow and Kenneth Mejia.

Stephanie Clements wants to get rid of corruption, part of which involves comparing LAPD salaries to other city salaries, and making sure the city doesn’t OK labor contracts it can’t afford. J. Carolan O’Gabhann calls himself an investor and philanthropist, though he’s on leave from his teaching position with LAUSD for the campaign. Only two years ago he ran as a Democrat for a Congressional seat in Indiana (!), so his is a quixotic quest at best.

Reid Lidow has been an influential persona around Mayor Garcetti, serving as speechwriter, press secretary and executive officer. On the face of it, he comes across as the perfect technocrat, a “Mr. Fix-it,” in his own term. Yet he is a visionary, and a poetic one at that: “This campaign isn’t just about your money—it’s also about keeping an eye out for inequality and acting swiftly to address it. A good, equitable economy is an economy that benefits the many and not the few—and today’s economy has got it backwards. In Los Angeles, some Angelenos are enjoying a Roaring Twenties moment while far too many are living in their own version of the Grapes of Wrath. And structural racism persists with younger generations still feeling the impacts of redlining and discriminatory lending making it all but impossible to build wealth.”

Attorney David Vahedi, who has conducted over 350 audits, proposes a $50,000 reward for whistleblowers providing information that leads to an indictment on corruption by public officials. He also wants to streamline the approval process for new housing, which could mean cutting corners perhaps, and have the city purchase more durable trash cans. His two best-known endorsers are retired Congresswoman Diane Watson and retired Chief of LAPD and former City Councilman Bernard Parks.

The only CPA in the race, Kenneth Mejia has worked with tenant and unhoused service groups. A previous candidate for Congress on the Green Party ticket, he is critical of the LAPD budget and its claims of securing public safety, pointing out that half of the city’s COVID-19 relief funds went to the LAPD payroll. He claims to have the most grassroots support in small-dollar donations. He has been endorsed by the L.A. TimesL.A. ProgressiveLa Opinión, Working Families Party, DSA, the Sunrise Movement, Assemblymembers Isaac Bryan and Alex Lee, as well as Culver City Mayor Daniel Lee.

As for the frontrunner, Paul Koretz, a professional politician all his adult life, he proposes inviting the FBI in to do sting operations, and seeks cost-saving opportunities in the LAPD. He reminds voters that he supported a ban on developer contributions to local elections—which goes into effect after this primary. He’s endorsed by Mayor Garcetti, Sen. Padilla, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Dolores Huerta, the L.A. County Democratic Party, some 30 individual union locals aside from County Fed, and most of his fellow City Councilmembers. Fiona Ma, Betty Yee, Rob Bonta, Riccardo Lara, Janice Hahn, and Hilda Solis.

No one will win this race outright. It can be expected to come down to Koretz and Mejia.

City Attorney

With Mike Feuer termed out, the race for City Attorney is highly contested. The Los Angeles City Attorney Coalition offers a brief outline of the powers that a progressive city attorney in Los Angeles could use to help working Angelenos. These powers include no longer prosecuting non-violent misdemeanors, opposing municipal codes that harm the unhoused, and prosecuting such abuses as wage theft, polluting companies, and bad landlords.

Whoever of the seven contestants wins, the outcome will be a historic first for representation: There are three Asian Americans, one is Black, three are women, one is Muslim, and one is openly gay, groups that have never been represented among L.A.’s previous city attorneys. They range from law-and-order Democrats to a federal prosecutor to a one-time Republican mayoral candidate to progressive business lawyers to a criminal justice reformer.

Federal corruption prosecutor Marina Torres has strong Latino support in her campaign for “a safer L.A.” She worked for Pres. Obama, helping to shape and implement DACA and immigration policy at the Department of Homeland Security. A daughter of formerly undocumented immigrants from Mexico, and a graduate of Stanford Law School, she exemplifies the model of professional success.

Also vying are two deputy attorneys in outgoing City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office. Richard Kim publicly advocated for the recall of L.A. District Attorney George Gascón—guaranteed to earn him no progressive votes, as are his punitive views on the unhoused. Sherri Onica Valle Cole, the African-American candidate in the race, worked in the city’s legal office for 16 years, but was fired in 2018 under murky circumstances. She is critical of arrests for loitering, prostitution, marijuana offenses, driving without a license or with a suspended license. Her campaign website lists no endorsements.

Kevin James is the openly gay candidate, a former right-wing radio host and the 2013 Republican mayoral candidate, who nonetheless has been endorsed by Equality California. James has grown over the years, however, and now advocates for building more public housing and for a “Diversion to Jobs Pipeline” to help those charged with offenses to straighten out their lives. He has a 37-point list of Ideas for City Attorney on his website that is worth studying. He’s also been endorsed by Mayor Garcetti, the L.A. League of Conservation Voters, Greg Good (running for City Council in Dist. 11), and 21 unions (including the Police Protective League).

Teddy Kapur, a lawyer specializing in corporate restructuring and bankruptcy, is Treasurer of the California Democratic Party. He has an inspiring story as the U.S.-born child of Indian immigrants; his list of endorsements highlights members of the South Asian community in the state, but is impressively capped by State Sen. Maria Elena Durazo and former State Treasurer and Controller John Chiang.

Born and raised in San Juan, P.R., Hydee Feldstein Soto has enjoyed a corporate law career “facilitating multi-billion-dollar transactions (larger than the annual budget of Los Angeles.)” She does not think of the city attorney as a policymaking office, and neither—having retired from her lawyering for a decade already now—does she see a City Attorney term as a step toward higher office. “At the end of the day,” she said at a Jan. 6 debate, “we need to enforce. We can’t criminalize poverty or homelessness, but neither can we normalize criminal behavior. No one has the right to privatize our public spaces for their own use.” She does not support changing zoning codes to support more housing, an especially hot-button issue in a crowded city trying to extend its public transportation system into and across neighborhoods of single-family housing.

These do not sound like especially progressive approaches. She’s endorsed by the L.A. Times (“stands out for her experience, legal acumen and problem-solving skills” ) and some of the smaller regional newspapers, some Democratic Clubs, and only one union (ILWU Local 94). The most impressive of her individual endorsements is former Congressman Howard Berman.

The only candidate whose platform talks seriously about following the anti-carceral tradition of prosecutors like George Gascón and San Francisco’s D.A. Chesa Boudin is Faisal Gill. Gill has a complicated history. He’s a one-time Department of Homeland Security Republican who defected to the left after being spied on by the NSA for being Muslim, and his campaign is largely bankrolled by personal loans from his years as a business lawyer.

But he has put forward an unabashedly pro-civil liberties and anti-criminalization platform. His endorsers include the California Faculty Assn., NUHW, SEIU 2015, DSA, Rep. Ilhan Omar, Dist. 1 City Council candidate Eunisses Hernandez, L.A. Progressive, and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.

In addition, he has a clarion endorsement from mayoral aspirant Karen Bass, who clearly envisions working with him at City Hall: “Faisal Gill will work hard for the people of Los Angeles, be a champion for criminal justice reform, and a fighter for progressive policies. The next city attorney will face many tough issues, and I am confident that Faisal has the experience and compassion to meet these challenges head on.”

Hopefully, Faisal Gill will ascend to the Top Two. It will be a challenge to elect him in November, considering the opposition that will be thrown against him. To have him teamed up with a Mayor Karen Bass would be very beneficial to the people of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles United School District

CedarLane Middle School students take a Chinese Language and Culture class in the Hacienda Heights area of Los Angeles. | Damian Dovarganes / AP

The LAUSD Board is responsible for more than 600,000 students in 1,000 public schools in the country’s second-largest school district. The privatizers promoting charter schools and the draining of resources from the public budget are still with us. Another issue is the role of police in the schools. There are three races this cycle:

In Dist. 2 four candidates are running. Public school teacher Miguel Ángel Segura has a four-point program to accelerate economic mobility, ensure equitable staffing, increase mental health supports, and uplift culture and identity. A veteran worker in several Democratic presidential campaigns, he joined the staff of U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona on a project to assess the impact of COVID-19 on schools, colleges, and universities in several states across the country. Erica Vilardi-Espinosa is a community activist endorsed by a couple of former state legislators (not identified as “former” on her website), and the California Coalition of Law Enforcement Associations.

Anointed successor to  longtime pro-charter member Mónica García, María Brenes is endorsed by the L.A. Times and the County Fed, and a sparkling roster of political celebrities: Congressmembers Lucille Roybal-Allard and Jimmy Gomez, County Supervisor Hilda Solis, Sate Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, Assemblymembers Wendy Carrillo, Isaac Bryan and Miguel Santiago, City Council President Nury Martinez, and Dolores Huerta. Highly accomplished and recognized as she is, Brenes still appears to favor the charter school movement, which could be worrisome to anyone seeking to preserve the integrity of the publicly funded school system.

As an alternative, Dr. Rocío Rivas is also in the race, a parent activist and deputy to current Dist. 5 Board member and longtime radical Jackie Goldberg. She has the support of the teachers union and is supported by DSA and endorsed by L.A. Progressive.

Staunchly pro-public education, she  works with DSA-LA on its “Green New Deal for Public Schools” campaign. She objects to “co-sharing,” sharing space and resources between district-run schools and charter schools. As for law enforcement, Rivas notes “a role for policing, but not directly inside schools,” and believes that all stakeholders must have an “honest and clear discussion on school safety, criminalization of students, school-to-prison pipeline, not enough after school programs and having too many accessible guns.”

Also endorsing her are the California School Employees Assn., retiring State Controller Betty Yee, Jackie Goldberg, two other LAUSD Boardmembers, Scott Schmerelson and Dr. George McKenna, Stonewall Democratic Club, and more.

This race comes down to support for privatizing charter schools or for the highest quality, union-led education for all. Hopefully the general election will be between Brenes and Rivas representing these two visions.

In Dist. 4, incumbent charter school supporter Nick Melvoin, who is backed by billionaire school privatization interests, will sail to an easy reelection. He is endorsed by the L.A. Times and the County Fed. He faces two opponents, Gentille Barkhordarian, a mother of two LAUSD students who seeks more “parent input” and who has voiced her objections to the district’s COVID-19 policies on far right TV network One America News; and Tracey Schroeder, a 24-year LAUSD with a prominent faith and patriotic agenda outlined on her website, who (according to DSA’s research) was “fired for refusing a COVID vaccine.” Progressive voters might consider casting no vote in this race as the only available option.

In Dist. 6, Kelly Gonez, current president of the LAUSD school board, is seeking reelection. She has the support of the L.A. Times, County Fed, UTLA and L.A. Progressive. Her opponents are Jess Arana, a police sergeant for the Los Angeles School Department with no listed endorsers; and Marvin Rodríguez, a Salvadoran immigrant and Marine who served in Iraq, and a public school Spanish teacher since 2005. “We resist privatization efforts in our schools that want to choose winners and losers,” he states on his website. “We cannot allow privatizers to continue to weaponize charter schools to undermine our public education system by creating conditions, which force our schools to compete for funding and resources. We cannot allow these efforts into our communities under the guise of philanthropy only to leave behind the costs and risks associated with their failed capitalist ventures for our communities to deal with.”

Gonez may win this one outright, though it’s a shame it’s not more of a contest of ideas.

A ballot measure

The general progressive view is to favor City Measure BB, which simply allows the city to give a little preference to businesses located within the city when it comes time for city contracts.

County Board of Supervisors

Two of the five seats on the County Board are up for election this cycle. These are among the most powerful seats in the country, each of them representing two million people spread out among the 88 cities of the County and large swaths of unincorporated land. The population of the County is more than the total in 15 states. The Supervisors set policy for penal institutions, foster care, transportation, public health, labor contracts with County employees, and the sheriff’s department among other responsibilities.

In District 1, Hilda Solis, the first Latina to hold a Presidential Cabinet post, served as President. Obama’s Secretary of Labor. If reelected, this would be her third and final term on the Board. None of her four opponents shows any promise of beating her. She has the County Fed and L.A. Times endorsements.

The real heat will be in Dist. 3, to replace the retiring Sheila Kuehl. Six candidates are running, but only three with any substantial chances. Kuehl has endorsed Lindsay Horvath, a West Hollywood Councilmember; other endorsements include current L.A. City Councilman, former cop Joe Buscaino, who just withdrew from the L.A. mayoral race and endorsed billionaire Rick Caruso. Also endorsing are a number of unions, the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project, the L.A. League of Conservation Voters and other advocacy groups, the L.A. Times, as well as some real estate developers.

The second prominent contestant is California State Senate Majority Leader Bob Hertzberg, who’s also a businessman investing in solar energy manufacturing. He’s been termed out and is seemingly seeking a comfortable sinecure for the next 12 years. The real estate industry is backing him (the California Apartment Assn.). One of his “pet” projects has been to assist homeless people with pets to get settled permanently together. Among his endorsers are legislators he’s worked with, state officials (Fiona Ma, Eleni Kounalakis), unions (SEIU 121, National Union of Healthcare Workers, Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters), and both the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs and the Los Angeles Police Protective League.

The third viable candidate is environmental attorney and state senator from the San Fernando Valley Henry Stern, the only candidate who has refused money from both oil companies and corporate developers. The California Clean Money Campaign named him their 2020 “Clean Money Champion.”

He has won endorsements from seven local mayors in the county (including West Hollywood), 46 homeowner associations and neighborhood council leaders, the Sierra Club, as well as name politicians such as Maria Elena Durazo, Henry Waxman and Fran Pavley, a number of Democratic Clubs, United Nurses Assn. of California, DSA, the teachers union UTLA, Firefghters Local 1014, Working Families Party, SEIU 2015 and SEIU 721, and also (a double endorsement?) L.A. League of Conservation Voters.

The County Fed has not endorsed in this race. Considering that there are also three other lower-profile candidates, it’s certain that no one will receive an outright majority in the primary. Which two will face each other in November is impossible to predict. My own inclination is toward Henry Stern.

County Assessor

The progressive consensus supports Jeffrey Prang.

County Sheriff

A progressive consensus exists in the County Sheriff race as well: Anyone but the incumbent, Alex Villanueva, who won his position four years ago on the pretense of being a liberal reformer of an extremely troubled department. There’s hardly a constituency he has not angered and offended since he assumed office. Eight individuals, including three women, are running to replace him. Some, with barely any organized campaign, have no chances of making the runoff.

That doesn’t mean Villanueva is dead meat: He has his supporters and his fundraising appears to have far surpassed anyone else’s. As for endorsements, he features only two individuals on his website, Deon Joseph, a “Police Officer in LA Country” [sic] and Gloria Romero, a former state senator who has taken some truly weird turns over the last few years.

Robert Luna, Long Beach Police Chief, has gained the L.A. Times endorsement. He calls himself the only “outsider” as the lone candidate who has never actually worked in the L.A. Sheriff’s Department. He would enforce the County’s vaccination mandate for all who work in the department, and would “change the culture” of racist gangs organized within it. Other endorsements include business federations, several Democratic Clubs, two U.S. Representatives, State Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, all nine Long Beach Councilmembers, and many other officials and community leaders.

Eric Strong, endorsed by L.A. Progressive, has had a 30-year law enforcement career and helped found Police Against Racism “which strives to dismantle systemic racism in policing.” He himself had been “racially profiled,” “roughed up by police,” and “stopped and pulled over when I know unequivocally that I had not committed any violation.” Headed up by Stevie Wonder, his endorsements include seven Democratic Clubs, ILWU Local 13, two sitting L.A. City Council members, two U.S. ambassadors, and a number of clergy members.

Eli Vera, who has worked in the Sheriff’s Department for 33 years, promises to “work with the Civilian Oversight Commission to bring accountability and transparency.” His endorsements include the Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association (PPOA), AFSCME Local 119, and California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges, and Hearing Officers in State Employment (CASE).

Cecil Rhambo, who is Chief of Airport Police at LAX is also running a viable campaign, with a number of union locals among his endorsements, as well as a dozen or so Democratic Clubs, prominent political and community leaders such as Betty Yee, Steve Bradford, Sydney Kamlager, Reggie Jones-Sawyer, Al Muratsuchi, Christy Smith, Sheila Kuehl, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Connie Rice, Torie Osborn, “Sweet Alice” Harris, and many others. In the late 1990s he led the Asian Crime Task Force.

Any of the above would be a vast improvement over Sheriff Villanueva. The only professed Republican in this race is Matt Rodriguez. All sheriff candidates can be referenced here, a site that will lead you to the candidates’ own websites.

Superior Court Judges

Many observers of electoral politics have wondered if there might be some other way to choose judges. Some of these races involve candidates who are all but invisible to the public eye. Hardly any voters know their names or anything about them, and rely heavily on trusted sources for recommendations.

This year a new development has emerged, which may be a harbinger for the future: a slate of four candidates for judgeships all on the same progressive side of the spectrum, three of them public defenders (as opposed to prosecutors who generally are more to the right), and one a union-side labor lawyer and progressive activist. The Defenders of Justice Slate has been embraced by DSA, the National Writers Union Southern California Chapter, and L.A. Progressive. Their platform prioritizes care over punishment and opposing mass incarceration. Electing a few progressive judges cannot fix our broken judicial system, but if you were brought before the court you’d be far better off with these candidates overseeing your case instead of the solid citizens who built their careers throwing people in jail.

Office 60: Anna Reitano
Office 67: Elizabeth Lashley-Haynes
Office 70: Holly Hancock
Office 118: Carolyn “Jiyoung” Park

For the other offices we don’t have much choice but to trust reliable sources:

  1. Sheridan Peace Garnett is on the ballot but has been appointed to federal district court. If she wins over 50% of the vote June 7, the office will be considered vacant, then the governor would appoint a new judge. A progressive vote would go to Tim Reuben.
  2. Melissa Lyons (L.A. Times) or Kevin McGurk (L.A. Progressive)
  3. David Gelfound (L.A. Times) or Lloyd Handler (L.A. Progressive)
  4. Patrick Hare (L.A. Times) or Thomas D. Allison (L.A. Progressive)

Steven Estrada is running in Long Beach. | via Estrada Campaign

  1. Carol Elswick (L.A. Times)

A Communist runs in Long Beach

The L.A. County Federation of Labor makes the following endorsements for Long Beach (the second-largest city in the county): for Mayor, Rex Richardson; City Attorney, Dawn Mclntosh; for Long Beach Unified Dist. 1, Nubia Flores; and for Dist. 3, Juan Benitez. Five seats on the Long Beach City Council are up for election, and the County Fed endorses incumbents Mary Zendejas in Dist. 1 and Roberto Uranga in Dist. 7; also Megan Kerr in Dist. 5 and Joni Ricks-Oddie in Dist. 9.

The Dist. 1 race presents a special case. A year or so ago, a young Communist Party member named Steven Estrada announced that he would run against Zendejas, charging her and the rest of the city’s Councilmembers with being beholden to developers, arguing that her acquiescence to pressure and money led the district to become the poorest in the city. He has conducted a steady maverick campaign over the last months—“No poor people in a rich city!”—involving door-to-door meeting people, tabling in public spaces, hosting open meetings to discuss issues and electoral approaches aimed at halting gentrification and directing more resources to uplifting the unprivileged. His openly Communist campaign has gathered a community of support. The June 7 vote will give an indication of how many people he has successfully reached.


(Eric A. Gordon is the author of a biography of radical American composer Marc Blitzstein, co-author of composer Earl Robinson’s autobiography, and the translator of a memoir by Brazilian author Hadasa Cytrynowicz. He has received numerous awards for his People's Worldwriting from the International Labor Communications Association. His latest project is translating the nine books of fiction by Manuel Tiago (pseudonym for Álvaro Cunhal) from Portuguese, the first volumes available from International Publishers NY.) Any opinions expressed in this article are purely those of the author