VENICE- Weeks after the primary election, one thing seems very clear: Angelenos are deeply divided, and won't be making many final decisions on who will represent them until November. At that time, if past is precedent, far more of them will also vote.
In the hotly contested race to replace Mike Bonin as CD11's next Councilmember, the latest numbers show about a 2700 vote difference between the two top contenders: Erin Darling and Traci Park. Darling received roughly 34.6% of the vote; Park, 29%. Mike Bonin's joyful proclamation of a Darling victory might lead one to believe his chosen, progressive successor had won outright in a landslide, but out of 65,905 votes cast, 23,972 votes went to neither of the top two contenders -- almost 1,000 more than were received by Darling. Roughly 38% of registered voters participated -- a better turnout than other districts, but far from a majority of voters. This race will go to a runoff in November, and the ultimate victor will in large part be determined by the votes of the supporters of the other candidates. Endorsements from those candidates (especially Greg Good, Allison Holdorff-Polhill and Mike Newhouse, each of whom received between 7-10% of the vote) will likely be highly prized over the coming months.
Park -- who has received the backing of numerous law enforcement agencies, and has raised the most money of any of the eight candidates in the race -- supports the immediate enforcement of no-camping laws around the district's schools and parks (something Bonin steadfastly refused to do). Darling -- who received the L.A. Times' endorsement -- equated any kind of "anti-homeless" rhetoric with "the disdain for immigrants and Muslims we hear on far-right news outlets" in his 2017 resignation letter from the VNC, echoing other progressives who view any kind of location-based restrictions on encampments as "segregationist". In recent interviews, Darling has boasted of being the "only candidate saying no" to enforcement of no-camping laws in CD11.
This outcome has some similarity to the results for another race for the votes of Westside voters -- that of County Supervisor, District 3. Like the CD11 race, the progressive incumbent (Sheila Kuehl) has chosen not to run again, throwing her support behind the most progressive candidate, Lindsay Horvath. Like Darling in CD11, Horvath also received the endorsement of the L.A.Times. She placed second in the race with about 27% of the vote. Her opponent in the November runoff will be San Fernando Valley State Senator Bob Hertzberg, who in interviews has touted his ability to build consensus in order to pass legislation. He has been extremely critical of the County's approach to the homelessness crisis (telling one publication the Board of Supervisors should "Fix it or get the hell out of the way."). Hertzberg received about 31% of the vote.
As with the CD11 race, the outcome may come down to support from those who voted for the also-rans, in particular, State Senator Henry Stern, who narrowly lost to Horvath with about 24% of the vote. The other three candidates in the race -- Brill, Beckford Hoge and Girgenti -- together garnered about 17% of the vote.
Also at issue this election season, as I pointed out in a recent editorial, was the degree to which the L.A. Times has, with its controversial endorsements, continued to sway public opinion and accurately reflect the mood and concerns of its readers.
Their influence had a clear impact on some lesser-known races. For example, it's highly unlikely that without the Times' endorsement the frontrunner in the race for State Controller (in a state where just 24% of voters are registered with the GOP) would be a Republican (Lanhee Chen, who will face a runoff against Democrat Malia Cohen in the Fall). The Times' chosen candidate for Sheriff, Robert Luna, will face a run-off against Alex Villanueva, after a race in which there were many candidates and no clear, non-incumbent frontrunner.
The paper's most controversial endorsement -- Kenneth Mejia, for City Controller -- will face CD5 City Councilmember Paul Koretz in November, after gaining roughly 43% of the vote, despite recent revelations that this so-called "only CPA in the race" in fact hasn't had an active CPA license in years and has a social media history that would horrify most centrist Democrats. And the paper's progressive pick for Councilmember in CD1 -- Eunisses Hernandez -- ousted incumbent Gil Cedillo. Finally, the paper's pick for City Attorney, Heidi Feldstein-Soto, managed to garner just 350 votes more than Marina Torres, and will face progressive police reformer Faisal Gill, who came in first with slightly less than 25% of the votes.
But with other endorsements, the Times was not so prescient or influential. Their pick for CD9, Dulce Vasquez, who lost to incumbent Current Price by 33 points. In CD13, Times' choice (and former Bonin staffer) Kate Pynoos came in a distant third; incumbent Mitch O'Farrell will face off against Hugo Soto-Martinez in November.
It's safe to say that the election's most decisive victory -- the one which perhaps came closest to representing a decisive shift in the State's overall mood as it pertains to public safety -- was the recall of controversial San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin by a greater than anticipated margin. Publications and pundits all over the country have called this a "backlash" against a certain strain of progressivism that has dominated the state's politics for years. Supporters of the recall of Boudin's predecessor (and current, progressive Los Angeles DA) George Gascon were overjoyed, hopefully tweeting that, with enough signatures, Gascon would be "walking the same plank in the near future".
But in light of the low turnout (about 30% of registered voters for the entire city), the Governor's overwhelming victory over his closest opponent, Karen Bass's 8 point victory over Caruso, and the distinct possibility that Sheriff Villanueva will not get a second term, any predictions of California's overall shift to the political right seem overstated and premature. Perhaps the most accurate assessment of voters' current mood here on the "left coast" was summed up by a satirical version of the San Francisco Chronicle, in its headline celebrating Boudin's recall: "CRIME ILLEGAL AGAIN!"
November, as they say, will be lit.