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Grassroots Progressives and Socialist Organizers See Key Results Go Their Way in LA City Primary

Despite heavy spending by police unions and landlord lobbyists, these results show an appetite for change in Los Angeles.

an outdoor ballot dropbox in LA County
(Image: Knock LA)

Tuesday’s primary brought an exciting slew of outcomes in the City of Los Angeles, where progressive, grassroots candidates overcame massive funding disadvantages to demonstrate movement power with a series of strong results. You can follow the votes as they continue to come in here. Let’s break down where the races stand so far:

LA City Council

District 1: Incumbent and landlord lover Gil Cedillo narrowly leads civil rights activist Eunisses Hernandez in early results. Hernandez’s grassroots campaign galvanized the gentrifying communities of Highland Park and Lincoln Heights, though it remains to be seen if she will be able to overcome the significant financial advantage Cedillo was able to wield through PAC spending from cops and landlords. This race may yet move, as late arriving ballots thus far have favored Hernandez.

Districts 3 and 7: Moderate incumbents Bob Blumenfield and Monica Rodriguez faced weak challengers in the San Fernando Valley and both won comfortably. These are races that happened.

District 5: Sheila Kuehl staffer Katy Young Yaroslavsky is crushing conservative attorney Sam Yebri in early results, and may be able to avoid a run-off in November. While Yaroslavsky is not a movement candidate, she does have strong environmental bonafides, and unlike Yebri, has not tweeted about how DSA is like the KKK, so we’re calling this a win. Moderately strong showings from newcomers Jimmy Biblarz and Scott Epstein further demonstrate that this Westside district is ready for progressive change.

District 9: Incumbent Curren Price appears to have held off Dulce Vasquez in this low turnout, highly-contentious race; it defied the standard political assessment that applies to other council races, as both candidates tried to squarely establish themselves as the leftmost candidate.

District 11: Progressive civil rights attorney Erin Darling, endorsed by outgoing Councilmember Mike Bonin, has posted a stunning first place result in District 11, narrowly outpacing reactionary litigator and anti-homeless activist Traci Park in early results. Despite a very late entrance into the race, Darling was buoyed by a slew of progressive endorsements, and looks well-positioned for what will likely be a bruising general election campaign.

District 13: In early results, DSA-LA and Ground Game LA-endorsed candidate Hugo Soto-Martinez is running neck and neck with the incumbent, landlord and police enthusiast Mitch O’Farrell. This is happening despite the LA Police Protective League and the California Apartment Association pouring millions into the race to back O’Farrell. The two will square off in November, and after O’Farrell’s primary performance was crushed by the collective “anti-O’Farrell” candidacies of Soto-Martinez, Kate Pynoos, and Albert Corado, Soto-Martinez is arguably the favorite to replace every landlord’s best friend.

District 15: Joe Buscaino will not be representing District 15 starting in November. Knock LA’s official position on that? “Good.” Also good? Buscaino-backed police union lobbyist Tim McOsker failing to get 50% of the vote, meaning he’ll face a run-off with UTLA-endorsed Danielle Sandoval. Knock LA’s position on Bryant Odega failing to make the run-off is less good, but Odega is young and ran a spirited campaign.

LA Citywide Races

City Attorney: Knock LA-recommended candidate Faisal Gil has nudged his way into the top two on a platform of LAPD reform in this race that looks increasingly crucial after recent legal decisions around enforcement and homelessness. Gil currently trails federal prosecutor Marina Torres in a race where four candidates are still close enough to potentially make November’s run-off.

City Controller: Unreserved progressive CPA Kenneth Mejia crushed in early results, significantly outpacing pro-police Paul Koretz whom he will face in November’s run-off. Mejia’s energizing grassroots campaign focused on civic education made waves, while Koretz’s assumption that he would win because he has unethically adhered himself to the walls of City Hall like moss was tested. We’ll see what happens if Koretz musters a real campaign in the general.

Mayor: Ex-Republican, anti-abortion billionaire Rick Caruso failed to get 50% of the votes despite outspending the field 3-1 in a heated mayoral race. Representative Karen Bass comfortably made a run-off against the guy who brought you the Americana but couldn’t secure the crucial endorsement of Americana At Brand Memes. (They endorsed “not voting for Rick Caruso.”)

Also noteworthy was city councilmember and ex-senatorial candidate Kevin de León barely outpacing progressive late-entrant Gina Viola, demonstrating that Bass’ best path to victory involves maybe not running to the right for the next five months and pissing off every progressive as she does so? Knock LA’s position is that Bass would be better off not running a campaign that leads to Republican Police Commissioner Steve Soboroff comparing her to Margaret Thatcher as if that’s a good thing. Seriously, Representative Bass… stop.

Other LA County Races

LA County Sheriff: It looks like incumbent Sheriff Alex Villanueva will face off against former Long Beach Chief of Police Robert Luna in November. Both candidates have careers mired in controversy and human rights abuses, and neither are good options for the health and safety of our county, as Knock LA has reported on many times in the past. However, Villanueva will likely finish with the worst primary result of any incumbent sheriff in the history of the county. Virtually every candidate ran on a platform of reforming the sheriff’s department (including, bizarrely, Villanueva himself, who is in charge of that department), and it seems very probable he will be ousted as voters and donors consolidate against him.  

Judge of the Superior Court: Judicial elections are notoriously oblique, as it’s difficult for candidates to engage with a countywide electorate. This often provides candidates with institutional power and backing, like prosecutors and corporate lawyers, with easy paths to victory. This cycle, however, it looks like all four members of the progressive Defenders of Justice slate — Holly Hancock, Elizabeth Lashley-Haynes, Carolyn “Jiyoung” Park, and Anna Slotky Reitano — will make their run-offs in November. Made up of three public defenders and a union attorney, this victory by the Defenders of Justice could signify a powerful progressive pendulum swing on the bench. 

June 7 LA Primary Takeaways

So yeah, Los Angeles grassroots progressives? Did quite well overall running campaigns that were unabashedly anti-LAPD. While national headlines are trumpeting the successful recall of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin as some sort of statewide referendum on progressive politics and the current state of policing in California, when you look outside of the increasingly reactionary city by the bay, political realities simply do not align with this concocted narrative. 

Knock LA would ask that writers from the New York Times and Axios tilt their heads down and look at the much larger and better southern metropolis before writing pieces that are wildly inaccurate. But Knock LA knows they won’t do this so we’ll keep reporting on what actually happens here in Los Angeles.

Knock LA is a journalism project paid for by Ground Game LA, which has endorsed several of the candidates mentioned in this article. This article was not authorized or paid for by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.