By Nick Antonicello
A “manufactured narrative” in this race to succeed outgoing, “lame duck” Councilmember Mike Bonin is that certain candidates were “outsiders,” while others were deemed “insiders,” or embedded City Hall Players because of their affiliation with the outgoing Garcetti Administration.
In the case of Greg Good, the former Garcetti staffer and ex-Garcetti appointee to the Los Angeles Department of Public Works, earning him some $250,000 annually, the political glove certainly fits!
Not only is the Good resume and record one of who is part of the city’s embedded political culture as an active organizational Democrat, union leader and longtime progressive, his campaign has received roughly $153,000 in independent expenditures from numerous labor special interests that are subsidizing an effort that seems to be in trouble just a week before the June 7th Primary.
Good has raised some $245,000 to date along with the $153,000 in IE funding that has him second in overall dollars endorsing his first race for public office.
Many expected Good to receive the endorsement of the retiring Mike Bonin, but apparently Good was already plotting a race against Bonin and behind-his-back by pursuing the very union support that had endorsed Bonin in 2013 and again in 2017 which apparently infuriated the incumbent, causing him to throw his support behind Venice attorney and former VNC Community Officer Erin Darling.
But Darling’s late start leaves him lagging in campaign donations with just $71,000 raised and apparently seeking the same “progressive lane” support of Good, who has locked down all the major union endorsements outside the public safety collective bargaining groups that represent police, fire and sheriff’s officers.
Good also has the backing of the powerful LA Democratic Party.
In the case of Traci Park, the self-described municipal attorney who jumped in the race last July has taken advantage of the big head start she had amongst others who waited months before officially announcing allowing Park to position herself as the only alternative to the already unpopular and twice-recalled incumbent.
Park cleverly positioned herself as an “outsider” to the political establishment when the hard reality is that Park, who is first in fundraising with nearly $400,000, has received an additional $800,000 from numerous special interest groups like apartment owners, developers and other collective bargaining groups in the public safety space that broke from Bonin in lieu of his defunding rhetoric and supporting some $150,000,000 in cuts to the LAPD operating budget.
Is this really the record or reality of an outsider candidacy
And while many Bonin recall activists like myself that gathered thousands of signatures, Park’s actual participation in the signature gathering process is vague and strange to say the least. Just days before the signature deadline, she contacted me to sign the petition in several e-mail requests to meet to secure that signature.
While we never met and she did not sign the petition with me, why wait till the last minute to sign?
So with just days to go before the June 7th Primary, the only real question that remains is that will any candidate receive the necessary 50% plus-one to avoid a runoff and become the councilmember in waiting?
While most observers believe such a scenario is not possible, Park’s overwhelming money advantage could bode well, especially if the turnout is weak as the volume of VBM (vote by mail) has been slow to date indicating either yet another low turnout, which was the very reason why Bonin’s second term was extended an additional 18 months in office which ironically turned out to be his ultimate political Waterloo!
In a race where name ID is not strong among this field of eight, the only thing voters seem to agree upon is the fact rampant homelessness is the dominating issue and that outgoing incumbent Mike Bonin is the only name they truly know.
Given the fact some 26,000 registered voters in CD-11 signed the recall petition leaving the effort just 5% from moving forward, it is obvious the reason why Bonin quit a race that he could not win, and not some phantom illness!
Let’s be honest, if 26,000 of your closest constituents signed a petition to recall you, you would be a bit depressed as well!
So here we are, with many observers believing candidate Park as the perceived front-runner, but many see her candidacy as “right-of-center,” and hardly in line with most Westside progressives who are clearly left-of-center in leanings and worldview!
How are you a “true Democrat” to some and a fiscal conservative to others?
Park’s Achilles Heal so to speak is that she has no real Democratic credentials such as membership in any clubs or organizations like a Mike Newhouse or Greg Good, both brand names within Democratic Party circles.
Compounding her challenge is that she has no community resume to speak of either, minus her failed lawsuit against the Ramada Inn across the street from her residence. No activity with the Venice Neighborhood Council or any other organizations unlike other candidates like Darling, Newhouse and even James Murez, the current President of the Venice Neighborhood Council.
But what she does have is a six-month head start on the competition having been out there herself for months while others were considering a run, it allowed Park to position her candidacy as the only game in town, so to speak!
Voters seemed impatient, and wanted an immediate alternative, for better or worse before the field began to populate which has driven the Park candidacy and this alleged frontrunner status.
It seems “The Anyone But Bonin” mentality of many perceived Park as the only alternative because she jumped in first.
That this entitled, “first-in” status was a race-closer of sorts.
The only question left is have any of the remaining candidates made a dent in her perceived lead with less than a week to go, or at least offer voters a second opinion?
In the case of Mike Newhouse, he has been the only candidate to offer a clear and concise, start to finish timeline of 30 days to remove street encampments upon assuming office.
Ironically, the biggest critics of the Newhouse Plan have been bombastic and hysterical Park supporters whose sole premise for running was addressing the homeless question!
For how do you run for months (Park) with no competition and fail to accurately address the #1 issue of the campaign?
Like I have stated for nearly a year, where’s the beef Traci Park?
For a candidacy like Mike Newhouse, who brings decades of community service as a civic-involved Democrat, his consensus building leadership is the kind of temperament and personality CD-11 needs these days.
And as we near the end of the June Primary campaign, the Park campaign seems to believe they have the “outsider” status even though her fundraising deems otherwise, and a new narrative being pushed is that Traci Park is a “True Democrat.”
What does that even mean?
Park doesn’t seem to have a single significant endorsement from any known Democratic office-holders and received a paltry 3% of the vote when she competed for the West LA Democrats endorsement several weeks ago (Good received the most votes, but failed to garner the required 60%).
For Park was originally a registered Republican who eventually became a Democrat and has received strong support from Republicans like Bill Simon of the Pacific Palisades, the unsuccessful GOP nominee for California governor against then incumbent Gray Davis.
And one must ask why Park registered to vote in Venice late last April (2021) after registering to vote in Mono County in January of 2021?
And Park has never addressed why the Harrison Avenue property she currently resides was on the market and for sale up until July of last year (ZILLOW), just when she officially announced she was running for LA City Council?
Questions that deserve answers sooner than later.
In a race where all eight have desperately avoided each other due to the reality no candidate had any overwhelming foundation of support, are some voters staying home because the ultimate objective of getting rid of Mike Bonin has been accomplished?
Was getting rid of Mike Bonin the objective and whoever takes his place will be just fine?
For that would be excellent news for Greg Good and Erin Darling and the ultimate irony of this council race to replace him.
And has the multi-million dollar, media saturation of the Caruso mayoral campaign dissuaded some from voting, or is the traditional and embedded voter apathy that one sees in LA municipal elections uncontestable and impenetrable?
That no amount of money will change the state of LA politics because an overwhelming majority of Angelenos have no real interest in casting a vote?
At this point will we have five more months of campaigning through the summer and mid-fall, as expected in the mayoral contest, or did voters make a very early decision about who they support to replace Bonin?
Will a “whittled-down” field of two make for a more interesting contrast and comparison of who is best to succeed Mike Bonin?
We will find out soon enough.
Nick Antonicello is a longtime Venetian who has covered the race for council in CD-11 for nearly a year. A thirty-year resident, he can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org