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Women far outnumbered by men in L.A. council races

In eight council races across the city, only a handful of women are running and several face uphill battles against men who have raised much more money.

March 02, 2013|By Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times
  • City prosecutor Tina Hess decided to enter the race when she realized the city could soon be without a single woman on its 15-member council.
City prosecutor Tina Hess decided to enter the race when she realized the… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

Tina Hess says she never planned to be an L.A. City Council candidate.

But last November, when she turned her attention to local races after the presidential election, she was shocked to see not a single woman running to represent her Westside district. And in seven other council races across the city, only a handful of women were running, compared with dozens of men.

"I just saw this void," said Hess, a city prosecutor who lives in Del Rey. She decided to enter the race when she realized the city could soon be without a single woman on its 15-member lawmaking body. Mayoral candidate Jan Perry, the only woman currently serving on the council, departs on June 30 because of term limits.

Hess is one of several female candidates waging uphill battles against men who have raised considerably more money.

In the west San Fernando Valley, attorney Joyce Pearson and business owner Elizabeth Badger are in a six-person field looking to replace Councilman Dennis Zine. Pearson has raised nearly $90,000 for her campaign, according to the most recent reports. Her main opponent, Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, collected nearly twice that amount during the same period.

In the east Valley, two women are running in a lopsided four-way race against former Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes. In the most recent fundraising reports, Fuentes had raised 10 times as much money as two of his opponents — actress and community volunteer Krystee Clark and education activist Nicole Chase.

In South Los Angeles, Ana Cubas is facing seven male candidates. In a news conference this week, she urged voters not to let the council become a male-only outpost of city government. "Do we want to go back to 1933?" she asked, pointing to a picture from that era in which no women sit at the council's horseshoe of desks.

In the mayor's race, City Controller Wendy Greuel makes frequent reference to the fact that she would be L.A.'s first female mayor. Perry, in turn, would be the first African American woman to hold the post, if elected.

But Cubas, a former aide to Councilman Jose Huizar, complained that City Hall leaders and the media haven't brought enough attention to the dwindling number of women on the council. She pointed out that local newspapers, including The Times, have failed to endorse any female candidates in next week's elections.

"I cannot believe that there wasn't a single qualified female candidate," she said.

Cubas said the current trend could have long-term consequences because the council often serves as a pipeline for other elected positions.

She has pledged, if elected, to form a women's political caucus and groom a female candidate to run to replace her. She has also promised to make gender a major focus, vowing to ensure female and male employees are paid the same for equal work.

She was joined by Rita Walters, who previously served as the councilwoman in Perry's district. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the city made great strides by electing women to the council, which at one point had five female members. The idea of a council without women in 2013, Walters said, "just pains me."

kate.linthicum@latimes.com

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