YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

ELECTIONS / L.A. CITY COUNCIL : Races Head in Opposite Directions


NORTHEAST LOS ANGELES — Two City Council seats representing portions of northeast Los Angeles will be decided by voters on Tuesday, though the contests could hardly be more different.

In the 1st District, Councilman Michael Hernandez is expected to win reelection against two opponents who have lacked money and broad-based support to mount an effective challenge.

But in the 13th District, eight candidates are battling for the seat Mike Woo decided to give up in running for mayor. And the wide-open race is almost certain to result in a June runoff between the top two finishers.

From the outset, the 13th District contest has been a freewheeling affair with several well-financed campaigns and a crop of candidates as diverse as the district, which runs from Hollywood to Glassell Park and includes Los Feliz, Silver Lake and Eagle Rock.

With a population of 232,000, the district's mix is 57% Latino, 21% Anglo, 19% Asian and 3% black. But with a large number of recent immigrants--from Central and South America, Asian Pacific nations and the Middle East--it has only 53,000 registered voters--the second-lowest figure among the city's 15 council districts, behind the 1st District. And its voter registration contrasts sharply with its population: 61% of registered voters are Anglo, 24% Latino, 9% black and 6% Asian.

Two of the leading candidates have years of experience in local government: former Los Angeles school board member Jackie Goldberg, 48, and Tom LaBonge, 39, a longtime deputy to City Council President John Ferraro.

But four candidates, each with well-organized efforts, also are campaigning hard. They are Tom Riley, a 27-year-old former aide in U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer's campaign; AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein, 40; independent television producer Conrado Terrazas, 37, and businesswoman Virginia Stock Johannessen, 37.

Rounding out the field are health care consultant Sal Genovese, 46, and executive marketing consultant Gilbert Carrasco, 27.

Like most of the city's races this year, the contest for the 13th District seat has focused on the issues of crime, unemployment and development. And in local debates and campaigning door-to-door, the candidates have outlined proposals to increase the size of the police force, bring jobs to Los Angeles and build housing, rather than commercial development such as office buildings.

Although all agree that the city needs more officers, the candidates offer varying proposals for increasing police presence to combat crime.

In addition to repainting many unmarked police cars to be black and white, Goldberg has called for reassigning more officers from stations to the streets, while LaBonge has proposed moving 180 civilian traffic officers to patrol duty. Riley has proposed giving more station jobs to civilians to free up officers for other chores, while Johannessen has said she would use part of her office fund to pay for more patrolling by private security firms within the district. Weinstein's ideas include encouraging police to move to certain communities by establishing a special city fund that would assist officers in purchasing homes.

In addition to bringing a new face to the council, the 13th District race also presents a historic first in city politics--the chance that one of three candidates--Goldberg, Weinstein or Terrazas--could become the council's first openly gay or lesbian member.

In the 1st District, which stretches from Mt. Washington to downtown's Pico-Union neighborhood, the results seem far more predictable.

Hernandez, 40, a longtime Latino activist, is expected to win a full four-term to represent the district where he grew up. He captured 65% of the vote 19 months ago to fill a seat vacated by Gloria Molina when she was elected to the county Board of Supervisors. Hernandez has amassed more than $122,000 in contributions and collected a host of endorsements, ranging from the Police Protective League and the Los Angeles County Central Committee to the Mexican American Political Assn. and the Northeast Democratic Club.

Challengers Jean-Marie Durand, 60, and Esther Castillo Long, 63, have raised only about $3,300 and $10,000, respectively, for their campaigns and lack major endorsements, which observers see as evidence that they lack widespread support.

"I think it's a done deal. Mike Hernandez will win," said businessman Joe Sanchez, a longtime observer of the area's politics and founder of the Mexican American Grocers Assn.

That sentiment is shared by former Councilman Art Snyder, whose district used to include portions of what is now the 1st District. Long worked for Snyder as a field deputy in Lincoln Heights.

"For such a short period of time, Mike has done a good job of bringing services into the community," Snyder said. "It doesn't seem to me that there's any substantial opportunity to beat him."

Durand and Long each insist they can force Hernandez into a runoff. But Hernandez said his polling indicates he will win with at least 65% of the vote. A fourth hopeful, Juventino Gomez, is waging a write-in campaign.

The boundaries of this district were drawn in 1986 to create a Latino-majority district. It includes some of the most crime-ridden, densely populated and poorest neighborhoods in the city.

Not surprisingly, fighting crime and creating jobs have topped the candidates' agendas.

Los Angeles Times Articles