California and national media couldn’t help themselves when they “observed” what they thought was a reaction against progressive policies on June 8. On Election Night, the overwhelming recall of Chesa Boudin and Rick Caruso’s stunning first place finish over Karen Bass dominated the news.
What few paid attention to – or were unaware of – was that more than 400,000 ballots remained to be counted and those ballots overwhelmingly skewed progressive.
Fast forward 10-plus days and city of Los Angeles voters have “doubled down” on their “progressive instincts,” signaling a move in November that will take Los Angeles even further to the left. Los Angeles’ general election results are likely to be 4-6% more progressive than the June 8 primary election results.
What does this voting pattern indicate for the city of Los Angeles and what does it mean for the future? The ramifications will be significant for Los Angeles’ long-term economic and civic well-being.
Los Angeles is a Democrat stronghold. Fourteen of 15 members City Council members are Democrats. November won’t change that. What will change is the ideological composition of new city council members and citywide office holders.
On Election Night, incumbent Gil Cedillo finished ahead of challenger Eunisses Hernandez. That result has flipped. If the results hold, Hernandez will win the 1st Council District outright with 53.51% of the vote. That’s one progressive pick-up. Her platform on public safety reads less a “tough on crime” elected official; instead, it talks about “equality and care-first systems” and “community-based solutions” – code words for defunding the LAPD. She’s also leader of a group called La Defensa, which has a statement of values which includes building an “anti-capitalist movement” and “abolitionism” with respect to policing.
The same held true in the 13th Council District (Hollywood), where incumbent Mitch O’Farrell emerged with a slim lead over Hugo Soto-Martinez. No more. Mr. Soto-Martinez, who signed the “No New Cops” pledge and supports the People’s Budget, which calls for a reduction in police officers based on attrition, now leads O’Farrell.
At the citywide level, this trend continues. In a lesser-known but important citywide office, Controller, Kenneth Mejia, who boasts of a close affiliation to the Green Party, leads long-time politician Paul Koretz. Mejia also supports the People’s Budget. He Tweeted, “Literally funding anything else would be preferable to the LAPD. Find a way to defund the police, stop using pensions as an excuse. This is your job.”
The 2020-21 People’s Budget would devote 45.61% of the budget to “universal aid and crisis management” and a paltry 1.64% (no typo here) to law enforcement and policing. The city controller must approve all payments in the city of Los Angeles – his election in November would likely create a City Charter battle between some on the City Council and the controller.
Finally, there’s mayor. Pre-election, the Wall Street Journal editorialized that “A Caruso victory would represent a repudiation of progressive misgovernance by rank-and-file Democrats. As Los Angeles goes, so could other big cities.” On Election Night, this bold projection appeared to come to fruition. Not now. Caruso trails Karen Bass by 7% (35.98% to 43.14%) – within striking distance and a gap that can be closed with a strong general election effort – but not what Caruso and team anticipated.
In poll after poll, Angelenos have indicated that rising crime, homelessness and affordable housing were priority issues. City residents – those who voted and those who didn’t – may find themselves saddled with a city government that skews so far left that the LAPD struggles for funding, pervasive homelessness continues to impact all 15 City Council districts and affordable housing remains unaffordable…not to mention a significant decline in private-sector investment in the city.
There’s still time for left-of-center to mount a resurgence – but the sand is rapidly falling through the hourglass.
Matthew Klink, a lifelong Angeleno, is owner and president of Klink Campaigns, a strategic communications and political consulting firm.