L.A. City Council Candidates: How They Fared

by SUEVON LEE | @suevlee

One thing about the Los Angeles City Council race for District 4 is clear: There will be a runoff election, since no candidate in the crowded 14-person race received more than 50 percent of the vote. What’s less clear is who will be advancing to the May 19 election.

Based on Tuesday’s primary election results, the top two finishers in Council District 4 were Carolyn Ramsay and David Ryu, also the district’s top fundraisers. But trailing very close behind Ryu is Tomas O’Grady. With mail-in ballots still left to be counted, it’s still very much a toss-up.

The uncertainty should be resolved on or before March 24, since the Los Angeles City Charter allows 21 days from the date of the primary to certify official election results. Only the top two finishers in the race head to the run-off election.

For now, Ryu’s goal to become the first Asian American city council member in Los Angeles since Michael Woo left office in 1993 is still buoyant. In a statement to the media Wednesday, the Korean American candidate thanked his supporters while urging their patience in the days ahead.

“There are still votes being counted and I will not consider myself to be in the runoff until every single neighborhood voice has been heard and all of the votes are counted,” Ryu said. “I will not declare that I am in the runoff until all the votes are counted and all the neighborhood voices are heard.”

Among all of Tuesday’s municipal races—seven City Council seats, plus four school board member seats, four L.A. Community College District Board of Trustees’ seats plus two charter amendments—the District 4 race is the only one heading to a runoff. District Four includes the area of Central L.A. and parts of the San Fernando Valley.

Based on results tabulated late Tuesday by the City Clerk’s Office, Ramsay, a former aide to termed-out Councilman Tom LaBonge, received 2,911 votes, or 15.3 percent of the vote. Ryu received 2,776 votes, or 14.6 percent of the vote. Following closely behind was nonprofit director O’Grady, who trailed by just 61 votes, with 2,715 votes, or 14.29 percent of the vote.

According to City Clerk media specialist Julio Esperias, there are still 46,412 mail-in ballots left to be tabulated for all of Tuesday’s races combined.

All in all, Tuesday’s primaries featured a dismal voter turnout, at 8.6 percent. That’s half of what it was four years ago, according to the Los Angeles Times. Perhaps that could change in the near future: L.A. residents who did turn out Tuesday overwhelmingly voted in support of two charter amendments that will move future city and school board elections to even-numbered years to coincide with state and federal elections.

Whoever wins the Council District 4 runoff race will fill the seat starting July 1 for a five-and-a-half-year term.

Ryu, a UCLA economics grad who raised more than $400,000 in an impressive showing for a first-time political candidate, is the director of a Los Angeles nonprofit health care provider. He has said he would like the City Council to be more “representative” and give more of a voice to the “voiceless…one of those being Asian American[s].”

“I’m not looking to represent just one group,” he told the USC Annenberg Media Center blog, Neon Tommy.

Meanwhile, the only other Korean American candidate in this year’s City Council races, Grace Yoo, lost in her bid Tuesday to unseat City Council President Herb Wesson in the race for District 10, which includes a chunk of Koreatown.

Although she faced a considerable uphill battle to unseat the political veteran, Yoo managed to receive 29.5 percent of the vote in the 10th district, with 3,266 votes. Wesson received 7,022 votes, or 63.5 percent of the vote.

In a statement emailed to her supporters Wednesday, Yoo said her campaign was a “grassroots, underdog campaign from day one.”

“The Yoo campaign was fueled by people power, not big money special interests, and we can be proud of running a positive campaign with integrity,” she said, thanking her volunteers. “Despite last night’s results, I remain committed to fighting for the Koreatown community and for true diversity on the Los Angeles City Council.”

Yoo, an attorney and former executive director of the Korean American Coalition, has told KoreAm that the fight to challenge L.A.’s 2012 redistricting–a cause that goaded her into this race–is not over. After Tuesday’s election, Yoo only had congratulatory remarks for her opponent, who oversaw the mapmaking process.

You can see her tweet to Wesson below:



Featured image via Benjamin Dunn/Twitter