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Sacramento veterans leading in council races

Current and former lawmakers are ahead in races that will bring the biggest shift to the council since 2001.

March 06, 2013|By David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times
  • L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, left, is shown at a Tuesday night election party with his former aide, Mike Bonin, one of the few front-runners for a City Council seat who did not serve in the state Legislature. Bonin aims to replace Rosendahl in the 11th District.
L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, left, is shown at a Tuesday night election… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

Five current and former state lawmakers were pulling ahead in their races for Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday, raising the possibility that nearly a majority of the council's 15 seats could be controlled by ex-Sacramento veterans.

With partial results in races across the city, Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills) was leading in a west San Fernando Valley contest to replace Councilman Dennis Zine. Former Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes held a majority of the vote in the northeast San Fernando Valley, where Councilman Richard Alarcon will step down this summer.

On the Eastside, former Assemblyman Gil Cedillo was ahead of his opponent, council aide Jose Gardea, in the race to replace Councilman Ed Reyes. And in South Los Angeles, state Sen. Curren Price (D-Los Angeles) was edging ahead of former council aide Ana Cubas.

RESULTS: Los Angeles primary election

Price, who is seeking to replace Councilwoman Jan Perry, said the early results showed that residents wanted "someone who can hit the ground running and bring about some change."

Fuentes, who represented Sylmar, Pacoima, Mission Hills and other neighborhoods as a state legislator, said the Sacramento candidates will bring expertise to City Hall.

And Blumenfield said his constituents did not view his time in Sacramento negatively. "I live in Woodland Hills. My kids are here, my wife is here, parents live across the street and they see me every day," he said at his election night party. "Nobody in this room feels that I'm a guy from Sacramento."

INTERACTIVE MAP: How your neighborhood voted

The results of Tuesday's election will deliver the biggest shift on the council in a dozen years. With incumbents stepping down in six of the eight races, dozens of candidates stepped forward to seek seats on the 15-member council, including several who spent time as legislators in Sacramento.

Two incumbents — Councilmen Paul Koretz, a former state legislator who now represents the Westside, and Joe Buscaino in the harbor district — were heading to victory outright by capturing more than half of the vote. Council aide Mike Bonin also had well more than half the vote in his district, apparently avoiding a runoff in the race to replace his boss, Councilman Bill Rosendahl. Trailing him were city prosecutor Tina Hess, teacher Odysseus Bostick and community advocate Frederick Sutton. Bonin, 45, said Rosendahl's constituents liked his style and agenda and wanted to stay the course in the district, which stretches from Westchester to Pacific Palisades. "I want to continue the work Bill did in building mass transit and empowering neighborhoods and housing the homeless," Bonin said.

In at least two of the remaining six contests, no candidate seemed likely to collect a majority. The top two finishers in those races would meet in a runoff election May 21.

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This year's campaign was dominated by $1.3 million in unlimited spending by labor unions, billboard companies and other special interests. Three-fourths of that money was spent in the three most competitive contests — one to replace Councilman Eric Garcetti in Hollywood, another to replace Reyes and a third to replace Perry. Cubas, who would be the first Latino in 50 years to represent Perry's district, said she wasn't worried about the more than $400,000 in independent expenditures, much of it from unions, being spent on behalf of Price.

"At the end of the day, it's how do you reach voters," she said. "Money doesn't necessarily mean you can win an election. You have to win the hearts and minds of people."

In Reyes' Westlake-to-Mt. Washington district, Cedillo was running against Gardea and businessman Jesse Rosas. Cedillo was buoyed by more than $330,000 in unlimited outside spending by labor unions, the taxicab industry, a billboard company and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

In Garcetti's Echo Park-to-Hollywood district, former city commissioner John Choi was ahead of the pack, with former Garcetti aide Mitch O'Farrell in second and neighborhood council member Sam Kbushyan in third, with nearly two-thirds of the ballots counted.

Choi, who benefited from more than $200,000 in union support, said he was encouraged by the early results. "We're getting support from across the board," he said.

Other candidates in the race were Deputy Atty. Gen. Josh Post; Matt Szabo, a former aide to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; Jose Sigala, a former aide to Councilman Richard Alarcon; charitable foundation director Alex De Ocampo; Robert Negrete, a longtime aide to state Sen. Alex Padilla; Assistant Fire Chief Emile Mack; business owners Michael Schaefer and Robert Haraldson, and university professor Octavio Pescador.

Cedillo, Choi and Price all were backed by Working Californians, a political action committee aligned with the employee union of the Department of Water and Power.

The last time the council faced so much turnover was in 2001, the year term limits took effect.

Five council members are leaving due to the restrictions. Rosendahl is giving up his council seat to focus on his fight against cancer.

In the northeast San Fernando Valley, Fuentes was ahead of education advocate Nicole Chase in second, followed by actor Krystee Clark and housing inspector Jesse David Barron, according to partial results.

And in the west San Fernando Valley, Blumenfield was leading five other candidates — attorney Joyce Pearson, business owners Cary Iaccino and Elizabeth Badger, investigator Steven Presberg and businessman Scott Silverstein.

Times staff writer Dalina Casellanos contributed to this report.

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