Rafu Wire Service and Staff Reports
Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de León on Sept. 20 officially announced that he is running for re-election to continue representing the people of the 14th Council District despite calls for his resignation.
In an exclusive interview with Politico, de León highlighted the work he and his team have accomplished in the first three years of his term.
“In just three years, we’ve made unprecedented strides in our district on the issues that matter the most to my constituents, like improving public safety and tackling homelessness head-on,” he said. “Our team’s commitment to revitalizing our parks and public spaces has created a safer, more livable community.
“My constituents deserve this high level of dedicated public service and I’m grateful for their ongoing trust and support. At the end of the day, the heart and soul of the work that we do as councilmembers is about serving the people, especially those that are struggling. That’s what I care about and that’s why I’m running.”
His office said in a press release, “Kevin de León has dedicated his life to education, activism, and grassroots community organizing. His extensive experience spans over a decade in the State Legislature, where he served as an assemblymember, senator, and Senate president. During this time, he passed legislation to revitalize the L.A. River, build green spaces like the Los Angeles State Historic Park, create a $4 billion funding stream for new parks and environmental protections, clean up Exide’s toxic waste, invest in permanent housing for Californians experiencing homelessness, put the state on track towards a 100% clean energy future, and led the fight to expand child care for working families.
“While serving on the Los Angeles City Council, de León led the fight to expand vaccinations for Black and Brown communities hit hardest by COVID, created the largest tiny home village in the nation for unhoused people, doubled illegal dumping crews citywide, secured millions in LAPD overtime for his district, broke ground on two of Los Angeles’ newest city parks, and has distributed fresh food boxes to more than 35,000 struggling family households.”
De León has been at the center of controversy since he appeared on an audio recording, leaked to the media almost a year ago, that revealed strategizing with Council President Nury Martinez, Councilmember Gil Cedillo and L.A. County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera over how to protect the three councilmembers’ districts and elect more Latinos to the council.
They expressed frustration with proposed maps from the city’s 21-member redistricting commission. The three councilmembers discussed how they could create favorable districts for themselves while handing other colleagues unfavorable districts. They also made disparaging remarks about certain individuals, including then-Councilmember Mike Bonin and his Black son.
Martinez stepped down as council president and then resigned from the council; Cedillo lost his bid for re-election against Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez; and Herrera resigned from his position. Although protesters at council meetings and at public events have loudly called on de León to resign, he has refused to do so.
De León has stated the conversation was “wholly inappropriate; and I regret appearing to condone and even contribute to certain insensitive comments made about a colleague and his family in private.”
An attempt to recall de León failed in April because it did not receive the necessary number of signatures to qualify for the ballot. The council stripped him of his committee assignments, but does not have the power to fire him.
Assemblymembers Wendy Carrillo and Miguel Santiago, have already announced bids for the seat. The primary election will be held next March. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two finishers will face off in November.
District 14 consists of all or part of Downtown, Little Tokyo, Boyle Heights, Eagle Rock, Highland Park, El Sereno, Garvanza, Glassell Park, Lincoln Heights, and Monterey Hills.
“Enough is enough. People are hurting. Kevin de León’s participation in the racist tapes scandal was so extreme that everybody from local constituents to President Biden called for him to resign,” said Santiago, who often appeared with de León at public events prior to the scandal. “Councilmember de León should not be announcing his re-election today, he should be announcing his resignation.”
In a interview with City News Service in June, Carrillo said she was running for the council seat in part due to the “circumstances and situation around the leaked audio recordings.”
She said CD 14 has “unfortunately had two back-to-back councilmembers that haven’t had the best reputation as of late,” alluding to the corruption scandal with Jose Huizar, the former council representative of the 14th District.
Candidate Nadine M. Diaz, a health professional who has run for the seat before, said that she is running again because she is dedicated to “restoring the core principles of respect, integrity, transparency, and service.”
“When a lot of people that I called my friends and allies turned away from me, my constituents had my back,” de León told Politico. “I understood in a deeper way the relationship that I had with my community and how that motivates and drives me. That’s why I’m still here. And that’s why I’m running.”
Regarding the recall attempt, he said, “Through thick and thin, our community remains focused on the important battles at hand like homelessness, strengthening our local businesses, and protecting working families.”
In the last few months, de León has led presentations commemorating key figures or cultural events and has passed motions with the help of his colleagues. On Sept. 15, the council approved by a 10-0 vote his motion to designate the intersection of Spring and second streets in honor of early civil rights activist and attorney Willis Tyler for his service and advancement of racial justice.
The councilman recently participated in the dedication of Metro’s Little Tokyo-Arts District station and rode in the Nisei Week Grand Parade.