Crucial party endorsement consolidates progressives and left-of-center Democrats behind the first-place finisher in the June 7th primary that formerly endorsed third-place candidate Greg Good!
By Nick Antonicello
On Tuesday evening the Los Angeles Democratic Party flexed it’s proverbial muscle by endorsing local civil and tenants right attorney Erin Darling in the November runoff against right-of-center hopeful and fellow Venice attorney, Traci Park.
The Darling endorsement was expected by most observers as he was seen as the most progressive of the two candidates seeking to succeed outgoing Councilman Mike Bonin, who was denied a third and final term thanks to multiple recall attempts and his failed positions when it came to homeless encampments and rising crime.
In a statement by LA Democratic Chairman Mark J. Gonzalez, he praised the front-runner as having “deep community roots who has proven his commitment to helping those most in need, and stands up for our Democratic values and commitment to service. As we look to build a fairer and more equitable Los Angeles, LA Democrats are proud to endorse Erin Darling for Los Angeles City Council, District-11.”
The shift in support from organization Democrats didn’t end with the LACDP, as Darling has also secured the support of the Los Angeles County Young Democrats, Black LA Young Democrats, the Culver City Democratic Club , the LA County “Feel the Bern” Democrats and Westside YD’s.
Darling was humbled by the endorsement.
“The LA County Democratic Party recognized that I am the candidate whose platform most reflects the progressive values of the Westside. I will advocate for affordable housing for all Westsiders, not just those in crisis, and I will always fight for climate justice, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and working people. Transparency, constituent services, and accountability will be cornerstones of my administration and I will work to restore those values at City Hall,” offered the first-time hopeful and life-long Venetian.
The Democratic Party’s full-backing represents the first shift in support from one candidate to another since the June 7th contest.
While third-place finisher Greg Good has not officially endorsed to date, a huge chunk of his bloc of votes can be claimed now by the Darling candidacy.
To date, only VNC President and Farmer’s Market Manager Jim Murez has indicated support for Traci Park who he donated $100 during the primary contest to her campaign.
While this universal endorsement of Democrats was somewhat expected, the real prize seems to be the bloc of support currently controlled by fourth-place and fifth-place finishers Allison Holdorff-Polhill of the Pacific Palisades and local Venice attorney and homeowner Mike Newhouse, both active Democrats who did not receive any party support in their losing efforts.
In the case of Polhill, who took a leave of absence from the staff of recently reelected LA school board Vice-President Nick Melvoin, a product of the Administration of former President Barack Obama, many think the party’s consolidation of support behind Darling could be bad news for Team Park.
Newhouse, a former city planning and zoning official is a former delegate to the California Democratic Party Convention and has been a member of the Westside Democratic Club. Ironically, he lives just several doors from Park on the same block in Venice, who (Park) originally was a registered Republican according to documents secured from LA County voting officials. Park faired poorly before the Westside Democrats where she secured just 3% of the club’s support during the screening process for the June Primary.
To date, none of the five other candidates have indicated any leanings to either Darling or Park, but many believe that could change as we get closer to the fall contest.
From a fundraising standpoint, the Democratic Party’s shift behind Darling could potentially close the dollar gap advantage Park enjoyed in the primary.
Park outspent Darling around 10-1 as the employment lawyer received nearly $1 million dollars in independent expenditure support from numerous public safety unions like the Los Angeles Police Protective League as well as money from the apartment owner’s lobby, which is in clear conflict with tenants who make-up a huge voting bloc on the Westside.
In Venice, tenants are an outright majority of residents as only about 36% of all homes in Dog Town are owner occupied.
The race to the “moderate middle,” or at least that left-of-center space occupied by most in CD-11 is being captured by Darling, as the Park candidacy is more populist, right-of-center and heavily supported by the “law and order” constituency who came out early for her and many point to that early endorsement that propelled Park from virtual obscurity to early front-runner status. But as the campaign wore on and was populated by others, Park seemed to lose her political voice as her direct mail campaign was controlled by independent dollars that seemed to provoke a mixed message and not the disciplined, anti-Bonin, anti-encampment point-of-view many embraced during the recall and with Bonin still in the race.
But with Bonin out and off-the-ballot, Park has seemingly struggled while Darling stayed laser-focused on rallying progressives, organizational Democrats and tenants behind his more inclusive message of change, especially in the area of reforming the council office and promising improved communication with the district, especially when it comes to the issue of rampant homelessness and how best to solve the problem.
While Park enjoyed strong support from the organizers of the 2021 Recall Bonin campaign, it is unclear where most of those voters supported in the June 7th Primary.
While many assume Park received a lion’s share of that vote, others seem to think that bloc was somewhat diluted and several candidates also enjoyed some of that support in the initial voting round.
With both campaign’s seemingly reaching towards the middle, many believe Park’s populist and law & order message needs to expand beyond that base of support.
“It is interesting that none of the losing candidates have embraced Park to date. You would think they have more in common with her versus Darling who just seems to be the more energetic and surging candidacy at this juncture,” offered one Venetian when asked to comment, but wanted to remain anonymous.
Others were anticipating the specter of a one-on-one debate between Darling and Park that will truly define their differences and contrast in campaigns and styles.
“This race will be the most exciting of council races come the November ballot.”
Nick Antonicello is a longtime Venetian covering the race for LA City Council in CD-11. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org