For 241 years, the city of Los Angeles has been ruled by men.
A sea captain. A journalist. A Confederate officer. Of the dozens of doctors, businessmen, bankers and ranchers who ruled LA, only one was black and a small handful were Latino.
Come Tuesday, a woman has a chance to rule the City of Angels.
The question is: do voters care?
“No,” Beverly Silverstein, 72, said while handing out Halloween candy outside her Carthay Square duplex on Monday night. Silverstein supports Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), and what matters to her is Bass’ character.
“I know Karen – I know her heart, her values,” the grandmother continued. “She’s always had a civic spirit, ever since we were in high school at Hamilton High.”
Support for the congresswoman runs deep in this historic Mid-City neighborhood, a sweet-tooth destination where campaign signs and “In This House We Believe” signs jostled for place of honor among the plastic skeletons. and polyester cobwebs.
Silverstein, his son Joshua and his daughter-in-law Cynthia all planned to vote for Bass.
Still, even the candidate’s staunchest supporters disagreed on how much gender should weigh in their vote.
“I think it’s important,” Joshua Silverstein, 41, said from under his long black shroud on the ground. “It is important.”
“But that’s not what comes to mind,” her mother said. “He’s a fantastic person, and we would be very lucky to have him as mayor.
“But the fact that she is the first the woman of color is important.
Here we go. Laila Silverstein, 10, agreed with her father. Cynthia Silverstein, 38, turned to her mother-in-law. Shel Silverstein, 3, had never thought about the question before.
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The Angelenos also seem conflicted — and in some cases, indifferent — though many agree that Bass’s election would be a belated first.
“It’s high time,” said Bobby Blatt, 87, who was handing out candy on his front porch a few blocks away. “For a city as liberal and open as LA, [electing a woman] is important. But it is also symbolic.
That’s because the mayor of Los Angeles shares significant power with the city council, as well as the all-female LA County Board of Supervisors.
Whether the vote goes to Bass or his opponent, billionaire developer Rick Caruso, the future figurehead of the city will have far less power than Eric Adams of New York or Lori Lightfoot of Chicago.
Yet Los Angeles City Hall remains largely the domain of men. Only one-fifth of the current city council is a woman, compared to more than half of New York city council members and one-third of Chicago aldermen.
“When I first organized the Women’s March in 2017 in Los Angeles, there was only one female member of the city council,” former council president Nury Martinez said today. disgraced, said Emiliana Guereca, president of the Women’s March Foundation. “It was sad for me – I live in the most progressive city and we fail to elect more women in local elections.”
For a small minority of voters, that failure alone is reason enough to vote for Bass.
“She being a black woman and also being the first woman to do it, that means a lot to me,” said Nadia Groomes, 20, of South LA, who was getting ready to go to work Tuesday morning at The Grove, the popular Mall Mid-City belonging to Caruso. “I feel like a lot of things can be different just because she stands up for us.”
Others said identity was irrelevant in the face of a growing homelessness crisis, skyrocketing rents, growing unease about public safety and uneven public transport.
“I’m a feminist, but I’m not voting for her just because she’s a woman,” said Hanaa Zizi, 23, of Koreatown, who planned to vote for the first time in Tuesday’s election.
Although she admitted that it was “good for little girls to see women in leadership positions”, Zizi said she was more concerned about how candidates would approach the issues she faced in the workplace. daily.
“Voters don’t tend to prioritize candidates just because they’re going to break down a barrier,” said Amanda Hunter, executive director of the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, which studies women in politics. “Voters value experience and expertise.”
This experience and expertise does not always match identity perfectly, as recent political history has shown.
Former City Comptroller Wendy Greuel narrowly lost her bid to become Los Angeles’ first female mayor in 2013, in a campaign backed by Emily’s List and some of California’s most prominent female politicians.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the fifth woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court since 1789, helped end the federal abortion law. And Martinez, whose racist comments on a leaked tape upset City Hall, never missed an opportunity to brag about her good faith as a wife and mother.
On the other hand, Roe’s sudden reversal against Wade this summer proved singularly heated for female voters. Bass has decades of abortion rights receipts on his record in the state Assembly and the US Congress. His supporters have repeatedly hammered Caruso, a former Republican, for his unclear stance on the issue.
Proposition 1, which would enshrine the right to abortion in the state Constitution, could also help train voters for the congresswoman, experts said.
“It energizes voters because it’s all on the ballot,” said Guereca. “When we look at the big picture, we look at who is mobilizing voters, who is knocking on voters’ doors, and it’s women. Women across Los Angeles County and the country mobilized voters based on the fall of Roe v. Wade.
Indeed, even opponents of the campaign measure say it is likely to boost Liberal candidates amid a wave of support for abortion access.
But in a city that has long served as a haven for those who perform and seek the procedure, abortion is unlikely to be a deal breaker. And while Caruso’s shifting allegiances have helped push loyal Democratic voters such as Theresa Anderson, 62, toward Bass, they’ve proven less damning for new voters in the San Fernando Valley, where polls show the race shoulder to shoulder.
“Gender wasn’t important because at the end of the day, you want the most qualified candidate to run LA,” Guereca said. “The fact that she is a woman is very important for mebut for voters, we should vote for the most qualified candidate.
Yet for the Silversteins, Bass’ identity was inseparable from his qualifications.
“Representation matters,” Joshua Silverstein said. “Political voices in this country have long been men – especially white men – and I think it’s time we had [a different] perspective.”
Los Angeles Times