Tuesday's special election in Los Angeles' 14th District could mark the opening of a new political era in the city if, as expected, a Mexican-American is elected to represent the City Council district that sprawls from Eagle Rock to Boyle Heights.
Six of seven candidates in that election are Latinos. If one of them wins, it will be only the second time in this century that a Latino has been elected to the council--an ironic statistic, given the fact that Los Angeles was founded by Mexicans and that 27% of the city's population is of Latin American extraction.
There are many reasons why Latinos have not had a political voice in this city that is commensurate with their numbers. Certainly the effects of past prejudice are to blame. So is the unfortunate tendency for Latin American immigrants to resist becoming U.S. citizens. But the old ways are changing, and if a Latino is elected councilman on Tuesday he will likely be the first of many Latinos who will help govern this city in the future.
Voters in the 14th District are fortunate to have several capable candidates to choose from. By and large they have run sound campaigns that focused on issues rather than on the silly distractions that often came out when Arthur K. Snyder represented the area. The 14th District would be well represented by city planner Steve Rodriguez, attorney Antonio Rodriguez, former council aide Ross Valencia or Gilbert Avila, a former aide to Gov. George Deukmejian.