David Ryu (center) at a campaign rally with some of his young supporters.
David Ryu (center) at a campaign rally with some of his young supporters.

Rafu Wire and Staff Reports

Health center public affairs director David Ryu will become Los Angeles’ first Korean American councilman July 1 when he is sworn in to succeed Councilmember Tom LaBonge to represent the Fourth District.

Ryu defeated LaBonge’s former chief of staff, Carolyn Ramsay, 53.85 percent (11,269 votes) to 46.14 percent (9,657 votes) in Tuesday’s election, according to unofficial results released by the City Clerk’s Office.

Ryu — who will be the second Asian American to serve on the council, following Michael Woo, who served from 1985 to 1993 — made a surprisingly strong showing among 14 candidates in the March primary election and won the backing of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party.

Among California’s highest-ranking Asian American elected officials, State Treasurer John Chiang and Board of Equalization member Fiona Ma backed Ryu while State Controller Betty Yee supported Ramsay.

Among former District 4 candidates, Tomas O’Grady, Rostom Sarkissian and Fred Mariscal threw their support to Ramsay while Ryu was endorsed by Sheila Irani and Jay Beeber.

Ramsay was also endorsed by Mayor Eric Garcetti and a majority of council members, including LaBonge.

Ryu carried the torch of the political outsider, cashing in on popular themes of rejecting campaign donations from developers and accusing LaBonge of misusing discretionary funds. His website notes that he has “never been part of the crowd at City Hall,” although he served as a deputy to former Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Burke.

In a statement on April 8, Ryu said, ““The scale and impact of development is the single most controversial issue in our district. And it is clear to me, after months of knocking on doors, that residents have little faith in the city’s process for reviewing and approving major development projects.

“It is easy for politicians to say their judgment is not influenced by campaign contributions. And those who are comfortable with business as usual at City Hall may not see a problem. Yet people looking at the system from outside are deeply skeptical. And they have a right to be.

“The best way to restore public confidence is to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest. People want to know that projects will be judged solely on their merits and their impact on the community – not by which developer has the deepest pockets.”

Ryu, who announced his campaign was returning nine donations totaling $4,300, said he wanted City Hall to be more responsive to residents.

Eric Bauman, chairman of the county Democratic Party, said Ryu “will fight for working men and women, advocate for our shared Democratic values and stand up for residents of the 4th Council District.”

The Ramsay campaign dismissed such proclamations as campaign stunts aimed at grabbing headlines. Ramsay touted herself as an experienced leader familiar with the inner workings of City Hall.

She pushed for the creation of a Hollywood Innovation Zone to attract entertainment and tech jobs, and to ensure infrastructure repairs that require tearing up streets and sidewalks are better coordinated.

In announcing his endorsement, Garcetti extolled Ramsay’s “15 years of experience and track record of bringing residents, local businesses, and community leaders together to solve problems and protect the character of our neighborhoods.”

“I know Carolyn and have seen her work at City Hall,” Garcetti said. “I know she will do things her own way and bring new ideas to the City Council.”

A group of supporters called “7 Women for Carolyn” also pointed out that of the city’s 18 elected positions, only one was held by a woman (Councilmember Nury Martinez).

LaBonge, who has served since 2001, was barred from running for re-election because of term limits.

The 4th District stretches from Sherman Oaks, through Hollywood and Griffith Park and into the Hancock Park and Miracle Mile.

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