By Nick Antonicello
And after some sixteen months of posturing, positioning and intensive campaigning be it door to door, shaking hands at a farmer’s market, attending fundraisers, competing in debates and forums and other small group events, Venice lawyers Erin Darling and Traci Park are at the top of the stretch and in the final dash to determine who will succeed Mike Bonin as CD-11’s representative on the LA City Council.
This campaign has been long and hard, with an eight-candidate June Primary that resulted in two relative newcomers outpacing more experienced political pedigree which might suggest being perceived as an “outsider and a non-politician” is what the doctor is ordering politically speaking.
Outside of their love for Venice, there isn’t much candidates Park and Darling seem to agree upon in rhetoric or policy.
With the issue of encampments and the high crime derived from these third-world conditions on the streets of Venice and the rest of CD-11, ironically the differences on the issue of addressing the homeless question has been fairly agreeable with the one major difference being Darling’s support of the Venice median project, a proposal described by Park as a “massive mistake,” and Park trying to tie Darling’s previous public service as a volunteer member of the Venice Neighborhood Council that recommends, but makes no formal determinations on any city policy as being absentee in results.
In contrast, Park has no prior community advocacy or previous experience worth noting until she became a candidate for office. But that didn’t seem to matter in the primary or runoff elections.
The median project, now before the California Coastal Commission for review could be altered and revised and the winner of this council race will in all probability play a huge factor for it to go forward in its current concept.
So here are 10 things to look for before all the votes are finally counted as this council race comes to a close after a five and half year hiatus, two attempted recalls and a pandemic that has most residents exhausted:
Who is the motivated voter?
While Park is clearly the right-of-center populist who enjoys strong support from law enforcement, private sector labor and the apartment owner lobby, are her constituencies the most upset and angry? The recall community by and large supports her candidacy and the most motivated of voter seems to be in Venice where Park has sizable support from the business community and neighborhood advocates who serve on the VNC with two key endorsements from former council rivals James Murez and Mike Newhouse. In fact two candidates who opposed Mike Bonin in 2017 in Robin Rudisill and Mark Ryavec are on the same page supporting Park.
Politics does make strange bedfellows!
Does Democratic Party support matter?
In this regard Erin Darling has a sizable monopoly with Democratic Party activists and club members as twenty (20) of the area’s most active political clubs and organizations support this Venice local including the LA County Democratic Party, the LA Young Democrats, Stonewall Dems, Miracle Mile and Playa Democratic organizations.
Darling has pointed out that Park is a former registered Republican while she has revealed Darling a former Green Party member.
Which endorsements matter most?
Traci Park would not be the formidable candidate she is today if not for the Los Angeles Police Protection League (LAPPL) that got behind her candidacy early to catapult Park’s status literally overnight. Ironically, the PPL was a strong supporter of Bonin in his initial 2013 and 2017 contests. There ability to raise large sums of independent expenditures is the reason for her overwhelming money advantage today.
Nearly 60% of all of her spending is coming from IE sources.
Elected officials who represent Venice have rallied behind Darling.
Erin Darling has captured the support of nearly every elected official at the local, county and state levels to endorse his campaign that represent Venice. Mike Bonin, Supervisors Hilda Solis, Holly Mitchell and Sheila Kuehl, Assembly member Tina McKinnor and Senator Ben Allen are all behind Darling.
Park has struggled with significant local elected support, but has received the endorsement of former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Who has a ground game?
With most voters mailing in ballots versus in-person voting, it is difficult to say who will have the best GOTV (get out the vote), and just what percentage of voters will show-up in person could be varied in comparisons to contests before the pandemic. What matters now is probably calls, texting and a final door to door push to targeted individuals that have not voted but are likely to show-up on election day.
Have people already made up their minds?
Given the length and depth of the campaign, there seems to be a perceived contrast in candidates so selecting someone should not be difficult. But how many “persuadable” voters are left and is this really now a “base-vote” election in simply getting your identified vote out on Election Day to win?
Do Personality and Philosophy drive support?
Park is clear the right-of-center populist who built her effort on the issue of homelessness and high crime. Darling is the progressive who wants to solve the issue of homelessness in a caring and compassionate fashion. But many are tired and weary of that point-of-view and a real angst exists with many voters to simply solve this endless problem. In that regard you can see Rick Caruso and Traci Parkreceiving the same philosophical support as Darling and Karen Bass are running in the same liberal/progressive lane. Given the notion a red wave is developing nationwide with Republicans poised to take back the House and Senate, will some of that red enthusiasm spill into these local contests which would benefit both Caruso and Park?
Did The LAA City Council Race Scandal Resonate In The Cd-11 Battle?
While Traci Park was forced to rescind the endorsements of former LA Council President Nury Martinez and outgoing Council member Gil Cedillo, did this racial scandal move voters in CD-11? A subset of that issue was the trading of legal representation controversies by both lawyers where Park defended an employee using racial slurs (N-word) and Park pounced on Darling’s representation as a federal public defender of crimes such as rape, murder and prostitution. This seemed to be the low point of the campaign as it was off-message for the most part. Race is always a major concern, and Bonin’s passionate city council floor speech defending his son was moving, but this particular contest seems more focused on homelessness as the #1 item on the minds of most.
Who is the better candidate?
It’s a question that goes ignored many times in deciding who wins and who is defeated. Not the best resume, but who is likable, hard-working and wants it the most? Who is knocking on that extra door or making that additional fundraising call? Who can be managed and motivated? Who can handle the press and who doesn’t lose their cool in a debate or forum. Who can lead by example? Who is the individual you would have a beer with? These intangibles make a candidate and a campaign. The hardest working candidate, and not the smartest or most intelligent usually prevails!
Who can hit the ground running on day one?
It’s one thing to work hard, quite another to understand local government, assemble a staff, work well with others and create a realistic agenda that builds consensus and support. The winner will be on the governing body of the country’s second largest city, it’s a massive undertaking and the issues are complicated and complex. That ability to get the office going will be critical.
Nick Antonicello has covered the race for council in CD-11 since the race began. He has filed more stories than any other media outlet. Have a take or tip on the race? Contact Antonicello via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org