Traci Park

LOS ANGELES - 2022 was a bad year for incumbent candidates in Los Angeles; just ask Mitch O'Farrell, Gil Cedillo and Paul Koretz.The people have spoken.  But unlike the good people of CD1 and CD13, who elected DSA-endorsed police abolitionists to replace their incumbent city council members, the voters of CD11 moved to the middle with their choice of Traci Park.  After eight years of Mike Bonin's increasingly leftist leadership, when it came to progressivism, the Westside of L.A. has been there, done that, and wants something else. 

On Thursday,  November 17, 2022, the era of Mike Bonin came to an end on the Westside of Los Angeles, in the form of a concession letter from Bonin's chosen successor, Erin Darling.  Traci Park had won what Darling called the  "battle for the soul of the Westside" with more votes than any other 2022 candidate for city council:  50,758 votes to Darling's 46,732, at last count.  By comparison, the last time Mike Bonin was elected, he received just 31,865 votes, which was 71% of the 2017 turnout in CD11.  This year, CD11's turnout of 57% exceeded any other district in Los Angeles (by comparison, turnout in CD5 was around 50% and in CD13 55.5%).

It's a stunning defeat for a candidate with the backing of virtually every Democratic Party organization and labor union, as well as the LA Times.  To be fair, Park had considerably more money in her campaign war chest.  But perhaps the most savvy political move she made came at the very beginning of her campaign, with the timing of her registration.  By entering the race ahead of Bonin's decision not to run for re-election, she left no doubt that she was the anti-incumbent candidate.

Darling, by contrast, was prompted to enter the race only after Bonin had left it.  He proudly portrayed himself as the "only progressive in the race for CD11", and was upfront about his intention to continue Bonin's staunchly housing first/harm reduction policies on homelessness. 

Once the primary was over, though, the message coming from his campaign became much darker.  Rather than comparing his policy proposals with Park's, Darling focused on labeling her a racist and implying that anyone inclined to vote for her was equally abhorrent.  His supporters even floated the rumor that Park -- who has lived in Venice since 2015 -- had only moved to CD11 recently in order to run for office and was secretly a  Republican.  On Twitter, Darling's campaign feverishly blocked anyone who had questioned his superiority over his opponent.

Park, meanwhile, kept hammering home the same message she'd begun her campaign with -- that she will be the change agent needed to clean up the mess that Bonin made, and that Darling represented more of the same, or what her supporters called "Bonin 2.0".  Her message worked; it was a desire for change that brought out CD11 voters in record numbers.  

The day after the election, Park issued a statement that included:  "I am humbled and honored that the constituents of CD11 have placed their trust and confidence in me to usher in a new era. Voters spoke convincingly that they want a different kind of leader and CD11 has sent a message that the Westside is done with ‘business as usual’ at City Hall.”  

Darling posted his concession statement on Twitter, stating:  "In the wake of the rancor and divisiveness of the last two years…the Westside, and L.A. in general, are in deep need of healing and unity that transcends race and economic status.  I wish Councilmember-elect Park the very best in that crucial work."  The next day, he deleted his campaign's Twitter account.

A year ago, Park told the Current, in her first interview as a candidate, "The way I view this relationship with constituents is similar to the way I view my relationship with my clients. My job is to identify the issues and to devise a strategy to achieve a resolution to the problem. And my task is to advocate and to represent their best interests."  She vowed to attend at least one Neighborhood Council Meeting in each of the neighborhoods of CD11 in person each year, "even if they don't like me."

The Westside Current wishes Park the very best in her first job as an elected official, and looks forward to covering what the future holds, both for her and the good people of CD11.