Three races have South L.A. voters taking sides

0
767

County supervisor, city council and D.A. contests are at stake Nov. 3

By Juliet Bennett Rylah

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — The Nov. 3 election contains at least three critical races for South L.A. voters, including who will fill open seats on the county Board of Supervisors and City Council District 10. Voters countywide also will decide whether District Attorney Jackie Lacey wins a third term or is replaced by challenger George Gascón.

The 2nd District of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has a population of nearly 2 million people and its 162 square miles includes much of South L.A. The election pits two established politicians against each other: L.A. City Councilman Herb Wesson and state Sen. Holly Mitchell. The winner will take termed-out Mark Ridley-Thomas’s seat, who is campaigning to return to the L.A. City Council after an 18-year absence.

Wesson has represented City Council District 10, which often overlaps the county’s 2nd District, since 2005 and served as council president from 2012 through January. Like Ridley-Thomas, he has termed out of his seat. Should both men win, they will essentially swap places. From 1998 to 2004, Wesson represented the 47th Assembly District in the state Assembly.

State NAACP President Alice Huffman makes money promoting ballot measures through her consultant firm. See Page 10

Mitchell served as a state assemblywoman from 2010 until 2013, when she was elected to represent the 30th state Senate District. She became the chair of the Senate Budget Committee in 2017. Previously, she was the CEO of nonprofit child development corporation Crystal Stairs.

This race could go either way. In the March primary, both candidates received about 29% of the vote, with Mitchell trailing Wesson by 2,683 votes. Mitchell and Wesson are similar politically, both are well-known in the district, and share key issues include criminal justice reform and homelessness. 

According to Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, “Mitchell has the edge based on her more fulsome progressive record on criminal justice reform issues. Wesson has the edge on his track record of delivering services to his council district constituents.”

At the city level, Ridley-Thomas faces off against attorney and activist Grace Yoo, the former executive director of the Korean American Coalition-Los Angeles, for Wesson’s District 10 Council seat.

The candidates’ priorities are not dissimilar. During a forum in September, Yoo listed affordable housing, public safety and police reform, and ethics in local government as her top three issues, while Ridley-Thomas cited homelessness and housing, police reform and implementing anti-racist policies.

Their methods may vary, however. Yoo advocated for more female police officers while Ridley-Thomas called for independent oversight and reemphasized anti-racist practices.

Yoo talked about prefab housing, tiny homes and other innovations to build more affordable housing quickly, while Ridley-Thomas leaned on projects he has already worked on, including 4300 Vermont and Normandie Terrace.

Yoo unsuccessfully ran against Wesson in 2015 and trailed behind Ridley-Thomas in the primaries, earning 23.61% of the vote compared to his 44.31%. But Hutchinson wouldn’t count her out.

“She’s a fresh face with a progressive record of achievement,” Hutchinson said, noting that many voters are skeptical of Ridley-Thomas due to “what they consider a record of deal making, lack of accountability and transparency, and blatant cronyism and favoritism on the Board of Supervisors.”

There is also speculation that Ridley-Thomas may not stick around to serve a full term, but instead will run for mayor after Eric Garcetti’s term ends in 2022.

In the district attorney’s race, incumbent Jackie Lacey is up against former San Francisco D.A. George Gascón, who is running as a progressive alternative to the more traditional Lacey.

Activists groups including Black Lives Matter have criticized Lacey and called for her resignation, citing both her handling of the Ed Buck case and her failure to prosecute any officers or deputies involved in civilian shootings since she took office in 2012. This week, BLM also filed a civil lawsuit against Lacey and her husband David Lacey, who is accused of pulling a gun on protestors who came to their home in March.

Lacey’s campaign cites her top issues as combating human trafficking and environmental crimes, banning private prisons and protecting seniors and immigrants from scams. Her endorsements include several police unions, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and county Supervisors Hilda Solis, Janice Hahn, Sheila Kuehl and Kathryn Barger.

Gascón is a former LAPD officer who served as the chief of police in Mesa, Ariz. and San Francisco before Gavin Newsom, then-mayor of San Francisco, appointed him D.A. to replace Kamala Harris in 2011. He’s a champion of restorative justice whose platform includes police reform and accountability, combating sexual assault and ending the death penalty.

Gascón’s endorsements include Harris, Newsom, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Mayor Garcetti, who switched sides in early October.

“Lacey has deservedly earned the wrath of many Blacks for her absolute refusal to prosecute cops who commit misconduct, abuse, and the wanton use of deadly force. She has blatantly abrogated her responsibility to be a fair, even-handed prosecutor,” Hutchinson said. “Whether Gascón will be a marked improvement as he repeatedly claims remains to be seen given the suffocating coziness of the D.A.’s office and law enforcement. Whether it’s Lacey or Gascón, voters must be vigilant, demand accountability, transparency and justice under the law of any D.A.” 

Juliet Bennett Rylah is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers. She can be reached at jbrylah@gmail.com.