Rafu Staff Report

If one of the Asian American candidates for Los Angeles City Council is successful in the March 3 election, he or she will make history.

David Ryu
David Ryu

Only one Asian American has ever served on the council, and that was more than two decades ago. Michael Woo represented the Hollywood-Silverlake area from 1985 to 1993 and unsuccessfully ran for mayor.

In Los Angeles County, where Asian Americans make up about 15 percent of the population, several Asian Americans have served as mayors and city council members, but not on the Board of Supervisors or as district attorney. In the City of Los Angeles, where Asian Americans are about 11 percent of the population, no Asian American has ever been elected mayor, city attorney or city controller.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the City and County of San Francisco, where Asian Americans make up about one-third of the population. The mayor, Ed Lee, is Asian American, as are four of the 11 members of the Board of Supervisors (there is no city council), the assessor-recorder and the chief public defender. Asian Americans have also served as district attorney and chief of police.

In L.A.’s Council District 4, which includes Sherman Oaks, Hollywood, Hollywood Hills, Studio City, Griffith Park, Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Hancock Park, Larchmont, Koreatown and Miracle Mile, David Ryu is one of 14 candidates vying to succeed Councilmember Tom LaBonge, who is termed out.

Carolyn Ramsay, LaBonge’s chief of staff, Joan Pelico, a City Council chief of staff, and L.A. Community College Trustee Steve Veres are also in the running.

Grace Yoo
Grace Yoo

Born in South Korea, Ryu grew up just south of Los Feliz, majored in economics at UCLA, studied public policy and administration at Rutgers, won a prestigious United Nations graduate internship, and was a Netkal Fellow at USC’s School of Social Work. He is director of development and public affairs at Kedren Acute Psychiatric Hospital and Community Care Center, one of L.A.’s largest nonprofit health care providers.

Ryu has served as a senior deputy to Supervisor Yvonne Braithwaite Burke and a special investigator for the county auditor-controller. He serves on L.A.’s Wilshire Center-Koreatown Neighborhood Council, is Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s appointee to the L.A. County Consumer Affairs Advisory Commission, and is Speaker Emeritus John Perez’s appointee to the California State Health Professions Education Foundation Board of Trustees.

In addition to Burke, His endorsers include California Treasurer John Chiang, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, Board of Equalization member Fiona Ma, State Sen. Holly Mitchell, and Assemblymembers Matt Dababneh and Anthony Rendon.

The crowded field in CD4 includes communications professional/educator Tara Bannister, community advocate/businessman Jay Beeber, attorney/educator Teddy Davis, businesswoman/community leader Sheila Irani, vapor bar owner Step Jones, attorney Wally Knox, marketing executive Fred Mariscal, nonprofit director/entrepreneur Tomas O’Gracy, and small business owner Rostom “Ross” Sarkissian, public interest advocate Mike Schaefer.

Given the large number of candidates, the election is expected to lead to a runoff between the top two contenders.

In Council District 10, Grace Yoo is one of two candidates challenging incumbent Herb Wesson, the council president. The district includes Koreatown, Mid-City, Palms, Olympic Park, West Adams, Wilshire Center, South Robertson, Arlington Heights and West Pico. The other challenger is physician/lecturer/theologian Delaney “Doc” Smith.

During the redistricting battles of 2012, Korean American activists charged that Wesson and other council members drew up maps that diluted Asian voting power. Yoo advocated for a district that included Koreatown, Thai Town and Historic Filipinotown.

Nadine Momoyo Diaz
Nadine Momoyo Diaz

Born in South Korea and raised in Los Angeles, Yoo is a graduate of John Marshall High School, UC Riverside (with a degree in political science) and Seton Hall University School of Law. She has served as executive director of the Korean American Coalition and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, vice president of the L.A. Department of Transportation Commission, and an attorney for children in the Dependency Court. As director of KAC, she has built coalitions through initiatives like the Korean-Latino Table Talks and the Asian Jewish Initiative.

Her endorsers include City Councilmember Bernard Parks, East Area Progressive Democrats, and World War II veteran and American Courage Award recipient Susan Ahn Cuddy.

In Council District 14, Nadine Momoyo Diaz is one of four candidates challenging incumbent Jose Huizar. The district includes Downtown, Little Tokyo, Boyle Heights, Eagle Rock, El Sereno, Garvanza, Glassell Park, Lincoln Heights and Monterey Hills. Former Supervisor Gloria Molina is seen as Huizar’s chief rival. Also running are activist/union organizer Mario Chavez and community political consultant John O’Neill.

Diaz’s mother, who was born in the Tule Lake camp, and father, who was born in the Ramona Gardens government housing projects, married after graduating from Roosevelt High School in 1958. Diaz has a bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology and a master’s in social work from USC and has been employed at the university for 23 years. She is currently recruitment manager at the USC Memory and Aging Center. She is also a clinical social worker at the California Hospital Medical Center and an active union member of SEIU UHW.

A member of the National Association of Social Workers, Diaz has served on the Los Angeles Skid Row Initiative Committee, Metropolitan Transportation Authority Review Advisory Committee, and Community Redevelopment Agency Committee. She says that homelessness is the single most important issue facing the district.

Her endorses include the National Association of Social Workers, SEIU United Healthcare Workers (California Hospital membership), Nachman Brautbar, MD, M. Ramirez, Pharm. D., Larry Apodaca, Esq., LCSW, and June Aochi Berk.

Elsewhere in Los Angeles County:

Carson – Incumbent Elito Santarina is one of eight candidates for two seats on the City Council.

Cerritos — The 10 candidates for three seats on the City Council include attorney/broker Frank Aurelio Yokoyama, businessman James Kang (he has withdrawn, but his name remains on the ballot), business owner Grace Hu, police officer Chuong Vo, and nurse practitioner/educator Sophia Tse. Current council members include Joseph Cho and Mayor Pro Tem Carol Chen.

La Mirada — Edward Eng, executive director of the L.A. County Citizens’ Economic Efficiency Commission, is one of seven candidates for three seats on the City Council.

Monterey Park — Incumbent Anthony Wong, a business owner, incumbent Mitchell Ing, a bank manager, and business owner Stephen Lam are among six candidates for three seats on the City Council. The election could result in Monterey Park’s first all-Chinese American City Council, including Mayor Hans Liang and Mayor Pro Tem Peter Chan.

Rolling Hills — Arun K. Bhumitra, an engineer, businessman and UCLA associate professor, is one of eight candidates for three seats on the City Council.

Rosemead — Incumbent and former mayor Polly Low and Garvey Board of Education member Janet Chin are among four candidates for two seats on the City Council. Current council members include Steven Ly.

Temple City — Civil engineer William Man and senior instructor Richard J. Chang are among five candidates for three seats on the City Council. Current council members include Vincent Yu.

Candidates for the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees, Office 7, include educator/job trainer Mike Fong, who has served as chair of the PBS SoCal API Community Council, vice chair of the White Memorial Medical Center Community Leadership Council, and board member of the UCLA Alumni Association. He attended Los Angeles City College (where his parents met) and East Los Angeles College.

Fong’s endorsers include Reps. Xavier Becerra, Judy Chu and Ted Lieu; State Controller John Chiang; State Sens. Isadore Hall and Ed Hernandez; Assemblymembers Ed Chau, Jimmy Gomez, Anthony Rendon and Ian Calderon; Mike Eng, former assemblymember and current LACCD trustee; Warren Furutani, former asssemblymember and former LACCD trustee; Al Muratsuchi, former assemblymember; L.A. County Assessor Jeff Prang; Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas; Mayor Eric Garcetti; City Councilmembers Gil Cedillo, Felipe Fuentes, Paul Koretz and Tom LaBonge; former City Councilmembers Ed Reyes and Bill Rosendahl; Monterey Park Mayor Hans Liang; Rosemead City Councilmember Polly Low; Sierra Madre City Councilmember Rachelle Pastor Arizmendi; South Gate Vice Mayor Jorge Morales; Alhambra Unified School District Board President Bob Gin; Garvey School Board President Bob Bruesch; and Garvey School Board Vice President Henry Lo.

Also running are John Burke, associate professor and former assistant dean at Los Angeles Valley College; and educator Joyce Burrell Garcia.

Teacher/scientist/entrepreneur Ankur Patel is among the candidates for Los Angeles Unified School District Board, District 3. Also running are incumbent/prosecutor Tamar Galatzan, administrator/retired teacher Scott Mark Schmerelson, businessman/professor Filiberto Gonzalez, businessman/activist parent Carl Petersen, children’s advocate/businesswoman Elizabeth Badger Bartels


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