Voters in Los Angeles who bothered to vote in yesterday’s primary election decided they want company when future city and school district elections are called. They overwhelmingly supported two charter amendments to change the timing of the elections to coincide with national elections beginning in 2020. More than 76-percent of the voters approved the change.
“Overwhelming” is a relative term in this circumstance. Preliminary post election night figures showed that only about 8-percent of registered city voters participated in the vote to move the city elections. The Los Angeles school district boundaries, which go beyond the city limits and includes an additional 330,000 registered voters, showed a turnout of a tick under 7 percent.
So another election experiment is now in place in California. Certainly, turnout will be higher compared to the paltry numbers produced by this and recent city elections in Los Angeles. But will the voters be more aware of the city candidates and measures, which will have to compete for attention with many other national and state candidates and state ballot issues?
If a larger voter turnout was the goal of the election date change then undoubtedly, mission accomplished. If better understanding and involvement in local government is the goal – then we’ll have to wait and see.
In this low turnout election incumbents were mostly successful in holding on to their seats. In the city council races, all incumbents won without a run-off. The most watched race considered a challenge for an incumbent, District 14’s Jose Huizar against retired Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, was a lopsided affair with Huizar corralling 65-percent of the vote over Molina and three other challengers.
A runoff will take place in May for the highly contested Fourth Council District of termed out Councilman Tom LaBonge. Fourteen candidates vied for the seat with Carolyn Ramsay, LaBonge’s former chief of staff, community health director David Ryu and nonprofit director Tomas O’Grady bunched up at the top with the two top candidates advancing to the final when all votes are counted. Former assemblyman Wally Knox finished fourth and appears to be out of the running.
It is interesting to note, as in the District Four race, the non-incumbents who fought for the city council seats were from the non-profit or government worlds. Another example was successful District Eight candidate Marqueece Harris-Dawson, another nonprofit executive, who will replace termed out Bernard Parks.
It appears that business experience is absent in many of the candidates who successfully are capturing these city offices.