The mantle of political leadership in Los Angeles' heavily Latino Eastside--for nearly two decades the stronghold of City Councilman Arthur K. Snyder--was thrown up for grabs Wednesday with Snyder's startling announcement that he will retire July 1.
Snyder's impending departure signals the start of a race to determine who will represent the 14th District, which is 75% Latino. If the new council member is a Latino, Snyder's successor will become a natural focus of media attention and spokesperson for Latinos throughout the city.
Names of potential successors were being tossed about Wednesday. Elected officials such as Los Angeles Board of Education member Larry Gonzalez and Assemblywoman Gloria Molina (D-Los Angeles) were mentioned most prominently as those who might be interested in running to replace Snyder. Neither would have to sacrifice his or her current position in order to run.
However, because they share similar supporters, Molina said it is likely that only one candidate would emerge among Gonzalez, Molina and Louis Moret, a former city public works commissioner who was one who ran against Snyder in last summer's unsuccessful recall election.
Split the Vote
"The smartest thing to do would be for Larry, me, Congressman Roybal and other leaders to get together and talk about it, as opposed to seeing 12 or 14 people running," Molina said, referring to previous election attempts that were stifled because several Latinos split the vote among themselves.
Molina said that she would "consider" running but added that she is not yet assuming that Snyder will actually resign in six months.
Moret said he is "leaning toward" running again, and urban planner Steve Rodriguez, who spearheaded the recall against Snyder after he nearly forced Snyder into a runoff in the 1983 municipal election, said Wednesday that he is definitely going to run.
"This time, it looks like it's finally going to be time for a Hispanic councilperson," Deputy Mayor Grace Montanez Davis said.
No Latino has been a member of the City Council since now-Rep. Edward R. Roybal (D-Los Angeles) left for Congress in 1963. Snyder, as an Anglo, has been a target for many who have wanted to see a Latino on the council.
"The issue, as it has been for several years, now is beyond Snyder," said one veteran Latino political aide. "The issue is who is going to position himself or herself to develop the kind of campaign necessary to bring it all together, to get votes of Hispanics and be also in the position to even look toward the politics of the mayor's race in the future"?
Some of the elements of last summer's recall race are expected to reappear in this contest--mainly the political clout and prestige of two East Los Angeles power brokers, Sen. Art Torres (D-South Pasadena) and Assemblyman Richard Alatorre (D-Los Angeles).
During the recall, both, particularly Alatorre, placed all of their clout behind Moret, then unknown to most voters. But despite a string of endorsements, glossy mailers and tens of thousands of dollars spent, Moret came in second behind Rodriguez.
Delores Sanchez, a publisher of several Eastside newspapers, said that from her several years of knowing Snyder, she believes that his decision to wait until July 1 to retire could be tied to his desire to "discourage the council from appointing a successor and instead making it more likely that the council will call a special election.
"I can't see him wanting to give up all sources of his influence on the Eastside," she added.