June 27, 2023

Election: Today Is the Last Day to Vote in LA City Council District 6 Race

Imelda Padilla and Marisa Alcaraz vie to replace Nury Martinez. Vote centers close at 8 pm tonight.

After more than eight months of speeches and a crowded primary election that narrowed the candidates to two, the runoff to replace former Councilmember Nury Martinez on the Los Angeles City Council will come down to voting day Tuesday, June 27.

Candidates Imelda Padilla, whose background is in community organizing, and Marisa Alcaraz, a top aide to City Councilmember Curren Price, are vying for the Council District 6 seat that represents parts of central and eastern San Fernando Valley. It includes the communities of Arleta, Lake Balboa, North Hills, North Hollywood, Panorama City, Sun Valley, and Van Nuys.

Padilla led the vote count in the April primary election, capturing 603 more votes than Alcaraz – a 4.52% margin. But with more than half the voters – over 7,200 people – casting ballots for other candidates in the April race, both Alcaraz and Padilla hope to pick up new supporters in the runoff.

As of Monday afternoon, the county registrar’s office had received 10,732 ballots by mail and 162 people had cast votes at a vote center, according to Mike Sanchez, a spokesperson for the office.

During the primary election in April, 13,510 people in Council District 6 voted, and the voter turnout was 11.4%.

Special elections tend to have low voter turnouts. Mindy Romero, director of the Center for Inclusive Democracy at USC, in an interview last month said the candidates’ ground game – and who they convinced to show up to vote – could be critical.

“Ultimately, it’s going to be a get-out-the-vote race,” she said.

For those who haven’t voted, here’s a refresher on the two candidates, their positions on key issues, who’s backing them, and information about where to vote.

The candidates

Both candidates were born and raised in the San Fernando Valley by at least one parent who immigrated from Mexico. Both still live in the communities where they grew up. And both have master’s degrees in public policy or public administration.

Padilla and Alcaraz hold similar political views. Both have advocated to raise the minimum wage and shown an interest in environmental issues, for instance.

Their careers have differed. Padilla, a 35-year-old Sun Valley resident, fought to raise wages and to address environmental injustice as a community organizer.  Alcaraz, who has worked in City Hall for 15 years and is the environmental policy director in Price’s office, has focused on developing policy that city councilmembers then vote on.

Alcaraz, a 38-year-old Lake Balboa resident who calls herself a “policy nerd,” believes she would be the first single mom of a young child to serve on the City Council if elected, and said she would bring that unique perspective to the job.

Padilla said she can read and write in Spanish, which she said means she won’t need to rely on translators to hear from her constituents. She’s spoken often about having rickets as a child, a bone disease that causes bowlegs, and being teased at school – an experience she said made her want to be a “defender of the underdog.”

The issues

Both candidates say addressing L.A.’s homeless crisis and lack of affordable housing are priorities. Neither believe in defunding the police department, though they agree the city should also invest in alternative, unarmed responses to certain incidents. And both support the city’s anti-camping ordinance, known as 41.18, seeing a need for its enforcement in certain places, such as near schools.

Although both candidates say more housing needs to be built to address homelessness and affordability issues, they differ on whether the city should permit more so-called “by-right developments.” Those are projects that already comply with city standards and zoning regulations and therefore don’t require discretionary review by the city planning department.

Alcaraz supports by-right developments, saying it reduces the power that councilmembers have during the discretionary review process to approve or hold up a building application in a city that has seen multiple corruption scandals involving officials and land-use decisions.

But Padilla said she’s worried that if the discretionary review process is eliminated, developers will build projects without providing community benefits that city officials may request, such as green space, better accessibility for disabled people, water runoff mitigations, or ample parking spaces. She wants to discuss the issue further before signing off on increasing the number of by-right developments.

City Hall scandals

Both Padilla and Alcaraz have worked for councilmembers who have been involved in City Hall scandals in the past year and have found themselves in the crosshairs of critics who question their integrity.

Last October, then-City Councilmember Martinez resigned in disgrace after being caught making racist and demeaning comments in a secretly recorded conversation with two other current or former councilmembers and a labor leader while discussing the city’s redistricting process to redraw City Council districts.

Padilla worked for 18 months for Martinez between 2013 and 2014 and has condemned her former boss’ comments.

“I get hit a lot for spending 18 months of my life working for former Councilwoman Nury Martinez. … But you know, I left that office way before that office ever had to do with any kind of scandal. And if there was anything shady happening in the office, I was never involved,” Padilla said at a candidates event earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Alcaraz’s current boss, Councilmember Price, was recently charged with multiple counts of embezzlement, perjury, and conflict of interest by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Price, who is expected to be arraigned next month, has called the charges “unwarranted” and “misguided.”

Alcaraz, at the same candidates event with Padilla, said she was “very sad” to learn of the charges against Price. She said, “We have to let the justice system take place.”

Alcaraz also defended her track record in City Hall.

“I think people move up into positions and do well in offices based on their work. … I’ve been a policy director in different council offices for over a decade now,” she said.

Endorsements

Because Alcaraz and Padilla have similar backgrounds and policy views in many respects, voters trying to decide between them are likely to look at who’s endorsing each candidate, said Romero of the Center for Inclusive Democracy.

“Endorsements can be really important. … It can make a difference for voters, particularly if they’re seeking out another way to differentiate (the candidates) and they see groups that they know and they trust” endorse, Romero said.

Alcaraz has the support of a number of labor groups, some of whom have spent heavily campaigning on her behalf. Based on reports to the city’s ethics commission as of Monday, outside groups have spent nearly $480,000 in the general election on mailers or other expenses in support of Alcaraz. This includes groups affiliated with the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 18, Southwest Mountain States Regional Council of Carpenters, and UNITE HERE Local 11.

Meanwhile, groups that support Padilla have spent more than $623,000 in the general election on messages supporting Padilla. The groups are affiliated with Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 300, Service Employees International Unions, United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, and the California Apartment Association Housing Solutions Committee.

An independent expenditure group called Valley Working Families, with major funding by LCCC PAC, a coalition of municipal, county, Latino-appointed, and elected leaders, as well as the California Apartment Association and American Beverage Association, has spent more than $72,000 in the past three weeks on mailers or door hangers that attack Alcaraz.

How to vote

Tuesday is the last day for eligible voters to cast a ballot.

Seven vote centers in District 6 will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday for in-person voting or to drop off completed ballots.

Ballots dropped in mailboxes must be postmarked by Tuesday. Voters may also drop off their ballots at a ballot drop-box within the district through Election Day.

To find vote centers or ballot drop-box locations, visit locator.LAVote.gov.

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