Represent! | Politics, government and public life for Southern California

LA elects new city attorney, controller and 3 city councilmen

Carmen Trutanich on primary night, Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Carmen Trutanich on primary night, Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Los Angeles Mayor race 2013

Election Day in Los Angeles resulted in incumbent city attorney Carmen Trutanich being ousted, a new fiscal watchdog and three new faces on the city council. And a special election for a fourth seat guaranteed that the next council will not be populated only by men. 

Four years after roaring into office as a maverick politician promising to upend City Hall, Trutanich was thrown out of the city attorney's office. Voters chose former state Assemblyman Mike Feuer to replace Trutanich, who was seeking a second four-year term as city attorney.

The final tally in Feuer's favor was 62 to 38 percent.

It’s unusual for an incumbent city attorney to lose a re-election bid. Trutanich’s downfall may have had its roots in his failed run for L.A. County district attorney last year, after promising voters he’d serve two terms as city attorney. The loss weakened him, politically.

Trutanich, 61, also angered some people with his aggressive style. He once threatened to arrest City Councilwoman Jan Perry for seeking to approve billboards he considered illegal. The son of a San Pedro cannery worker, Trutanich — a registered independent — bucked the establishment, but the establishment kicked back, with many of the city’s elected leaders, labor unions and major newspapers endorsing Feuer.

Feuer, 55, promised be a more collaborative city attorney.

Born and raised in San Bernardino, the longtime Democrat attended Harvard University for both his bachelor’s and law degrees. He clerked at the California Supreme Court before serving as executive director of the nonprofit Bet Tzedek Legal Services in Los Angeles. 

In 1994, Feuer was elected to the L.A. City Council from the San Fernando Valley. In 2006, he was elected to the California state Assembly. He failed in a 2001 bid for city attorney, losing to Rocky Delgadillo.


In the city controller's race, Ron Galperin, an attorney and businessman, defeated termed-out L.A. City Councilman Dennis Zine. Galperin is president of the City of L.A. Quality and Productivity Commission.

Galperin won 56 percent to the San Fernando Valley councilman's 44 percent.

Galperin spent $584,000 to win the citywide office that was held by Wendy Greuel. That was in contrast to Zine's $1.1 million. Both the Los Angeles Times and Daily News endorsed Galperin’s campaign. Zine is a former motorcycle cop and board member of the Los Angeles Police Protective League.

The controller is responsible for conducting financial and performance audits on city departments. 


In City Council District 1, which stretches diagonally from Highland Park to the Pico-Union neighborhood, Gil Cedillo won by 4 percent over José Gardea.
Gardea, chief of staff to the district's termed-out councilman Ed Reyes, had put himself forward as a hands-on, homegrown policy-oriented candidate.

Cedillo, a longtime state legislator who has served in both state Senate and Assembly, presented himself more as a power player who has written laws to benefit California’s large immigrant population. 
They differed on development projects, which Gardea generally opposed, while Cedillo took a more circumspect approach.
Independent groups including the L.A. County Federation of Labor and the union that represents DWP workers spent heavily on Cedillo’s behalf — putting some $800,000 into mailers, phone banks and canvassing. That support outstripped the $100,000 in independent support for Gardea.
In Council District 9, which extends from Staples Center to USC and through South L.A., Curren D. Price, Jr. defeated Ana Cubas by 6 percentage points.
Economic development was a key issue in the race pitting Price against Cubas, a former chief aide to Councilman Jose Huizar.

In the money battle between the candidates, Price outspent Cubas by more than $160,000. But independent groups added to the imbalance, putting more than $1.1 million toward his campaign. Cubas drew far less independent backing — about $38,000.

The 9th District had long been represented by African-American politicians, and the outcome of the election continued that tradition. Demographic change and a controversial redistricting have made Latinos the majority of registered voters there. Cubas would have become the first-ever Central-American on the L.A. City Council.
In District 13 — which includes Hollywood, Silver Lake and Echo Park — Mitch O'Farrell won by 6 percentage points over John J. Choi.

Choi, a former public works commissioner, collected twice as much in campaign donations as O’Farrell.

Choi received heavy independent support from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, where he was once the economic development director, as well as from other city-affiliated unions.
O’Farrell, a former deputy and advisor to Councilman Eric Garcetti, said his experience in that office helped him become someone who could create jobs. Choi would have become only the second-ever Asian-American to serve on the council, and the first Korean-American.

In the San Fernando Valley's District 6, a special election was held to replace Tony Cardenas, who was sworn into Congress in January. Former state legislator Cindy Montañez and LAUSD board member Nury Martinez are headed for a runoff in July. Montañez held a commanding lead, but didn't win the 50 percent of votes needed to avoid a runoff.

Whoever wins will have the distinction of being the only woman on the 15-member city council.


Elementary school teacher Monica Ratliff faced a David-and-Goliath competition for a seat on the Los Angeles Unified School Board — and won. Ratliff defeated political newcomer Antonio Sanchez despite his endorsement by mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel, outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and several of his allies who helped raise about $1 million on what turned out to be a losing bid to elect Sanchez.

Ratliff, a teachers union representative, received an endorsement but no financial support from United Teachers Los Angeles’s PAC.

As of election day, both candidates had spent about the same amount — just shy of $50,000. The big difference came from outside spending by political action committees. The committees helping Sanchez — the Villaraigosa-led Coalition for School Reform, the SEIU labor union, the L.A. County Federation of Labor and the California Charter Schools Association — spent more than $800,000 to help his campaign. Independent expenditure committees spent no money to help Ratliff.

Ratliff ran a bare-bones campaign that relied on about $40,000 she raised and her credentials of having spent a decade as a school teacher.

The education policy disagreements between Sanchez and Ratliff weren’t as wide as those of the camps supporting each candidate. Both candidates supported focusing on low-performing schools and improving student health and safety. 

The candidates’ support for school Superintendent John Deasy cast a slight difference. During the campaign, Sanchez expressed unequivocal support for Deasy’s brand of reform, which includes increasing the number of charter schools, allowing outside operators to run schools and improving teacher performance by tying their evaluations to students’ test scores.

United Teachers Los Angeles did not make independent expenditures in this race, despite perceptions that the outcome could create a majority on the school board to oppose Deasy’s reform agenda. Before the primaries, the union had supported several candidates, including Ratliff and Sanchez, and it held firm to that position for the general election.

Sanchez, who grew up in Pacoima, is a former San Fernando Valley area director for Villaraigosa. He was also a field representative for Democratic Assemblywoman Cindy Montañez. 

Ratliff practiced law for about a decade before changing careers and becoming a teacher. She continued her job teaching fifth grade as she campaigned.

Ratliff joins the seven-member L.A. Unified Board of Education to represent District 6 in the east San Fernando Valley, an area with nearly 100,000 students.


In the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees election,  Nancy Pearlman beat David Vela by 14 percentage points.

Pearlman, an anthropologist and radio and TV producer, has served on the community college board since 2001. She was involved in approving construction projects in the district, some of which came under public scrutiny as ill-managed. She placed second to Vela in the March 5 primary.
Vela, the challenger, is an aide to an assemblyman and previously was a field deputy for Supervisor Gloria Molina and served on the Montebello school board. He promised to use new tax funds generated by last year’s Proposition 30 to restore classes that had been cut from the schedule.