By T.A. Hendrickson
Come December, much of Northeast Los Angeles will be represented by two new Los Angeles City Council members.
Hugo Soto-Martinez, a labor organizer, has unseated incumbent City Council member Mitch O’Farrell in Council District 13, which includes Atwater Village, Elysian Valley and parts of Glassell Park, according to vote tallies released on Tuesday. O’Farrell conceded the race on Tuesday evening.
Eunisses Hernandez, a community organizer and policy advocate, will represent CD 1, which includes most of Highland Park, Mount Washington and parts of Glassell Park. Hernandez defeated incumbent Gil Cedillo in the first round of voting in June.
Soto-Martinez and Hernandez represent a new generation of leaders. Both are millennials (born in the last decades of the 20th century) who have ousted incumbents from the baby-boom generation (born in the mid-20th century).
Soto-Martinez and Hernandez also represent a political left turn for NELA. Both campaigned on limiting the city’s police force by freezing new hires and reorienting its budget toward mental health services and other community needs. On homelessness, they emphasize outreach over anti-camping sweeps. On affordable housing, their focus is on enforcing renters’ rights and increasing the mandatory share of affordable units in new developments.
Politically, Soto-Martinez and Hernandez align closely with the views of Councilmember Nithya Raman, who unseated an incumbent in 2018 to represent the Eastside’s CD 4. Taken together, the trio form a strengthened progressive wing on the City Council.
At the same time, the election has brought victories on the conservative end of the spectrum: Attorney and lobbyist Tim McOsker has won the open seat in the CD 15 Harbor district and attorney Traci Park is running well ahead of her more liberal opponent for the open seat in the Westside’s CD 11. Occupying the middle ground, attorney Katy Yaroslavsky, a political centrist with expertise in the environment, has won the open seat in the Westside’s CD 5.
Meanwhile, back in NELA….
As voters in CD 1 and CD 13 opt for new leaders, leadership in NELA’s CD 14 is in disarray, with Councilmember Kevin de León clinging to his seat despite widespread calls for him to resign over his role in the now infamous racist leaked audio. In refusing to resign, De León has said CD 14 needs him to work on its problems, a stance that is at odds with his pariah status on the City Council, within the Democratic party and among many of his constituents. The upshot is that Hernandez and Soto-Martinez have agendas to push forward, coalitions to form and divides to bridge, while De León fights for political relevance.
Some demographic details
Three female victors in this year’s races – Hernandez, Yaroslavsky and Park (presumptively) – will bring the number of women on the 15-seat City Council to six. (The other three women are Raman, Monica Rodriguez (CD 7) and Heather Hutt (CD 10.) It could have been as many as eight women, but in the weeks before election day, City Council President Nury Martinez (CD 6) resigned in disgrace over the racist leaked audio and CD 15 candidate Danielle Sandoval, who started out strong, ended up losing big when instances of wage theft at a restaurant she once owned came to light.
Two Latino victors in this year’s races – Hernandez and Soto-Martinez – will leave the number of Latino councilmembers at four. There is no net gain because Hernandez is replacing a Latino incumbent (Cedillo) and Soto-Martinez’s win over O’Farrell is offset by the resignation of Nury Martinez. (The other two Latino members of the council are Rodriguez and De León.)
In all, NELA’s new councilmembers Soto-Martinez and Hernandez will join three other newcomers on the City Council. That’s the most newcomers on the council since 2013.
Amid City Hall scandals that are weighing down NELA – and L.A. at large – the future is at hand.