Rafu Wire Service and Staff Reports

Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) announced Friday that he will challenge embattled City Councilmember Kevin de León in next year’s election.

De León represents the 14th Council District, which includes Downtown, Little Tokyo, the Arts District and Boyle Heights. Santiago represents the 54th Assembly District, which includes some of the same neighborhoods. The two have appeared together at a number of Little Tokyo events.

De León assumed office in 2020, succeeding José Huizar. A Democrat, de León served in the Assembly from 2006 to 2010 and the State Senate from 2010 to 2018. He also ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2018 and for mayor of Los Angeles in 2022.

Santiago was elected to the Assembly in 2014 after serving on the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees and as district director to former Assembly Speaker John Pérez.

De León, then-Council President Nury Martinez, then-Councilmember Gil Cedillo, and Ron Herrera, president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, were caught participating in a backroom conversation discussing ways to disenfranchise Black voters through a redistricting process and making racist comments that was secretly recorded and leaked to the news media.

In the aftermath, Martinez resigned her council presidency, then gave up her seat altogether. Herrera also resigned his post, while Cedillo left the council at the end of his term, having failed to win re-election in June. Eunisses Hernandez succeeded him as the 1st Council District representative.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a briefing Oct. 11, two days after the recording surfaced, that President Biden was “glad to see one of the participants in that conversation has resigned, but they all should.”

Other members of the City Council have stripped de León of major committee assignments and largely shunned him, but do not have the power to fire him.

Despite several protests at City Council meetings as well as confrontations during his public appearances, de León has resisted calls for his resignation.

Santiago called running against a longtime ally and friend “a difficult decision, but Los Angeles needs to heal and our neighborhoods are desperate for effective representation.”

“The time for change in Los Angeles’ 14th District is now,” Santiago said in a statement. “The current councilmember’s refusal to respect the overwhelming calls to step down, from the people he is supposed to serve all the way to the president of the United States, is holding back the progress we need on homelessness, housing and the economic recovery we need in our neighborhoods.”

On Monday, de León announced that the Upper Los Angeles River Watershed Area Steering Committee has recommended awarding $25.1 million in funding for the Hollenbeck Park Lake Rehabilitation Project to improve water quality, enhance flood mitigation and environmental restoration, and empower local communities in Boyle Heights.

During that press conference, de León was asked by ABC7 Eyewitness News about Santiago’s candidacy and responded, “I guess I won’t be receiving his endorsement this electoral season.”

When asked if he is definitely seeking re-election next year, de León said, “You will find out soon. I’m not on anybody’s timeline but my constituents’ timeline.”

An attempt to recall de León failed to receive the necessary number of signatures to qualify for the ballot.

“Through thick and thin, our community remains focused on the important battles at hand like homelessness, strengthening our local businesses, and protecting working families,” de León in a statement regarding the recall attempt.

The primary election for the seat will be held in March and a runoff, if necessary, in November 2024.

Following a special election on April 4 for the 6th Council District seat formerly held by Martinez, community relations manager Imelda Padilla and council aide Marisa Alcaraz are headed for a runoff on June 27. Padilla led the seven-candidate field with 3,424 votes (25.66%) and Alcaraz was second with 2,819 votes (21.13%). Marco Santana was third with 2,515 votes (18.89%), Rose Grigoryan was fourth with 1,980 votes (14.87%) and Isaac Kim was fifth with 1,452 votes (10.90%).

The district is being overseen by a non-voting caretaker, the city’s chief legislative analyst, Sharon Tso. A caretaker does not hold a seat on the council, but oversees the council office to make sure the district provides constituent services and other basic functions.

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