Author: Sarah Dunlap
Los Angeles’ District 14 City Council elections resulted in an undisputed victory for incumbent Jose Huizar, who defeated Alvin Parra and Juan “Johnny Jay” Jimenez Tuesday, March 6. A Political drama unfolded prior to the elections when Alvin Parra, former aide to City Councilmember JosÃ© Huizar, left his job to oppose his former boss in the upcoming March elections. Huizar prevailed, however, and will return to City Hall after winning 6,353 of 9,255 votes to begin his first full-length term in the City Council.
Huizar came to the City Council by way of a 2005 special election, after Antonio Villaraigosa vacated his seat to assume his role as Mayor of Los Angeles. Originally, the Los Angeles Times reported, Huizar expected to run for re-election unopposed. Parra, his district director, changed these plans when he resigned and filed to run for office just before the November deadline. “I wouldn’t have done anything if I didn’t have an opponent,” Huizar told the L.A. Times in a Feb. 12 article. Instead, Huizar had to launch a campaign, accumulate donations, and vie for much-sought-after endorsements.
Parra indicated that former professional relationships did not alter campaign protocol. “I would say that when you enter a campaign, there are some issues to consider, but at the end of the day, you’re both political opponents in the campaign,” he said. Parra stated that nine aides out of 23 resigned, most with comparable reasons. “I was one of nine people out of a staff of 23 that quit, and a lot of us had the same issues. We thought that we were working harder than he was.”
Campaign tactics ranged from contentious leaflets accusing Huizar of political inaction and inattentiveness to unflattering caricatures likening Parra to the inept, bumbling cartoon character Homer Simpson. In reference to Steve Lopez’s L.A. Times column dubbing Parra “the Homer Simpson of L.A. politics,” the Huizar campaign released a corresponding flier one day prior to the Tuesday elections. “Huizar’s last flier-which hit mailboxes the day before Tuesday’s election-had a huge drawing of Homer Simpson altered slightly to resemble his opponent, Alvin Parra,” the L.A. Times reported on March 12.
On his official campaign website Huizar credits himself with making L.A.’s District 14 safer, cleaner, and greener. With a slew of endorsements from community leaders, labor organizations, politicians and media outlets that include members from the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce, the L.A. Times, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Huizar will return to the City Council to propel forward his platform of “safer, cleaner, and greener.”
Parra and Jimenez, who won 27% and 4% of the vote respectively, criticized Huizar for neglecting his constituency. Like Parra, Jimenez focused on community in his platform, emphasizing the values of community and identity. According to smartvoter.org, a non-profit website that provides nonpartisan summaries of political candidates and ballot measures, Jimenez’s top priorities were to “economically organize residents and community groups,” to “create community assemblies with community funding,” and to “maintain sense of culture and community.”
In a campaign website video, with a rendition of John Lennon’s song “Imagine” playing in the background, Parra circulates through East Los Angeles, highlighting areas that need additional attention and stressing the need for an efficient, caring government.
Parra attributed a significantly lower voter turnout during this election to a variety of factors, including citizen disenchantment, last-minute venue changes, and a lack of advertising. Upwards of 90,000 registered voters reside in District 14 of Los Angeles, which contains Boyle Heights, Downtown L.A., Eagle Rock, El Sereno, Garvanza, Glassell Park, Hermon, Highland Park and Mount Washington. Historically, Parra said, 25-28% of voters participate in municipal elections. On March 6, citizens cast 9,255 votes-roughly an 8% voter turnout.
“I went to at least 15 polls that day to say ‘Hi’ to people and to thank them. Everywhere I went there was a complaint. One group didn’t have any arrow signs,” he said. Certain polling places, including a high school, were especially difficult to locate. “I went to that high school-even I couldn’t find the polling place,” said Parra.
“I wish the Councilmember a lot of success, but based on his track record, I think he’s going to fall back on his comfort zone,” Parra said. “The bar should be raised when it comes to representation. These are my neighbors that I’m trying to support, and I’m hoping that [Councilmember Huizar] gets that message.”
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