Wed, Jul

15th District Face-Off

CD15 - The council race in District 15 has not been this contested in decades and is the most expensive race ever run here,

with the Tim McOsker campaign spending over $900,000 in the primary and another $300,000 in the general election. It’s the independent expenditure campaigns that have completely raised the stakes with some $2 million in hit mailers and a slanderous ad in San Pedro Today. Clearly, the political establishment is nervous about losing this election. And for this race against Danielle Sandoval to be so close with her being outspent by over $2.9 million is, to say the least, remarkable.

With the political establishment of San Pedro joining forces with both corporate outsiders and city hall insiders behind McOsker, one would think that this election would be a slam dunk for the former lobbyist and chief of staff to Mayor James Hahn, but the reality is that with the Rick Caruso campaign spending his millions on outreach to the Latino voters of the city and an extensive get-out-the-vote campaign in Wilmington, this improved Sandoval’s chances of winning as the underdog. The election results were not certain on election night or for days afterward. 

Sandoval is clearly the underdog in this race but has concentrated her efforts from the beginning on community outreach in the underserved areas of the district, which is what garnered her nearly 30% of the primary vote. As we go to press, the results are McOsker with 65% and Sandoval with 35%, with only 35% of the vote counted.  With the mail-in ballots still being tallied, it’s anyone’s bet what the results will be. However, if by some quirk Sandoval were to win, it would be the biggest upset in the history of CD15.

The race has been considerably upsetting as both campaigns have lodged nasty allegations at each other with Sandoval being accused of “wage theft” following an eight-year-old wage claim, and the Sandoval claims that Tim McOsker worked as a lobbyist for TraPac terminal in support of automation at the expense of dock worker jobs. Both claims have some basis in fact but are not the real underlying issue in the 15th councilmanic district. It’s actually about who is being represented at city hall.

For the better of 70 years, San Pedro’s business interests and those of the Port of LA have held sway over the sole elected city representative. San Pedro has only one-third of the population of the district but tends to have the heaviest turnout. Due to geography, the 15th councilmanic district is one of the most stable electoral districts of the Los Angeles City Council and the only one to keep its boundaries generally the same since the districts were formed in 1925. Out of the nine council reps during this time, there has never been a Latina and only two other women to get elected here. The district “has long been represented” only by residents of San Pedro, according to the Los Angeles Times, “despite accounting for less than one-third of the district’s population, has enjoyed outside influence as the district’s traditional base of political power.”

The changing demographics may also play a part in electing Sandoval if the Latino vote actually shows up to the polls. Working to her benefit are the millions of dollars that mayoral candidate Rick Caruso, the former Republican now posing as a Democrat, spent on reaching out to Latinos. 

Even though Joe Buscaino, the current CD15 representative, likes to tout that San Pedro has the<br>This has been one of the most expensive city council races in Los Angeles history largest population of Italians in Los Angeles, that number even if combined with all the other European nationalities is just one or two percent larger than all those who identify as Latino. It’s something like 44% to 42% with Italians making up only some 5,400 people. Curiously, those of Irish extraction come in second in the district’s demographic share of residents of European heritage. McOsker is Irish and both he and Sandoval are Catholic, which in times gone by might have been a bigger deal than it seems to be today. 

So the battle for the 15th seems to hinge on who will be represented best: the insider McOsker who seems to know city hall like the back of his hand, or the insurgent who will be more in line with the growing caucus of progressives, who are the growing portion at LA City Council? The odds-on-favorite under normal circumstances would be the candidate who spends the most money. However, there seems to be considerable pushback from voters who have been deluged by McOsker mailers and who have become outright hostile to the multiple anti-Sandoval mailers.            

Attack Ads Draw Response
A report by one canvasser said an older Harbor City woman, “was so fed up with McOsker’s hate mail that she was going to vote for Sandoval because she thought they were picking on her.” 

And even Joe Gatlin of the NAACP of San Pedro yanked his endorsement of McOsker after the attack ads came out slandering Anthony Santich, Carmen Trutanich and Dave Gascon.

Voters may have reached the limit on the effectiveness of the standard political mailers consultants send out. What seems to have made a difference in this and other races in Los Angeles is old-fashioned retail campaigning door-to-door and organizing in the community. With McOsker’s well-funded campaign he has sent out dozens of mailers, aired YouTube ads interrupting every three minutes of video, purchased pop-up ads on social media and sent out weekly Buscaino-like newsletters and yet in the June primary only garnered some 37% of the votes. Sandoval, by comparison, sent out no mailers for the June vote and received 29%; in the runoff she has doubled down on door-to-door canvassing and mailed one counter-attack mailer but just to San Pedro.  

In response to the attack mailer and center spread ad in San Pedro Today, lawyers for Carmen A. Trutanich, former LA City Attorney who was disparaged in the ad,  have demanded a retraction. A letter dated Nov. 1 said, in part:<br>This has been one of the most expensive city council races in Los Angeles history

<br>This has been one of the most expensive city council races in Los Angeles historyOn behalf of Mr. Trutanich, I write to demand the immediate retraction and clarification of the misleading, irresponsible and derogatory “Ad,” in the form of a flyer, paid for, and sent by your organization, Committee on Ethics & Transparency (“Committee”), to residents of Los Angeles City Council District 15, regarding Mr. Trutanich. One side of the flyer, captioned “You Can Tell a Lot About A Person by Their Friends,” contains a picture of Mr. Trutanich, with an arrow leading away from his picture, directing the reader’s attention to written text that states:

“Carmen ‘Nuch’ Trutanich – the former Los Angeles City Attorney, and Santich’s uncle, faced disciplinary action by the State Bar of California for ethical issues.”

Contrary to the clear and deliberate impression created by this statement, Mr. Trutanich has never “faced disciplinary action by the State Bar of California for ethical issues.”

Trutanich has threatened to sue both the fictitious front group and San Pedro Today

In the meantime, just hours before the lunar eclipse of the blood moon, San Pedro was visited by both of the mayoral candidates with Rick Caruso walking up Sixth Street glad-handing merchants and Karen Bass holding a GOTV rally at ILWU Local 63. It would be very strange if all of Caruso’s money actually went to getting Sandoval elected but failed to win him the popular vote citywide. 

As of this writing, the results may end up being determined as much by whether the rain deterred voters from going to polls as any other factor.

Again one of the curious dynamics of this race is how an establishment liberal like McOsker has become the conservative in the race pitted against an insurgent Sandoval campaign that has brought progressives and Republicans together in an odd coalition.  This has never happened before in CD15.

(James Preston Allen, founding publisher of the Los Angeles Harbor Areas Leading Independent Newspaper 1979- to present, is a journalist, visionary, artist and activist. Over the years Allen has championed many causes through his newspaper using his wit, common sense writing and community organizing to challenge some of the most entrenched political adversaries, powerful government agencies and corporations.)


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