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Traci Park beats Erin Darling in race for Westside council

Municipal attorney Traci Park claimed victory Thursday in the hard-fought election to represent the Westside on the Los Angeles City Council, saying her lead of more than 5,000 votes was too big for the attorney for the Civil Rights and Criminal Defense Erin Darling closes, eight days after voting ended.

His statement was followed a few minutes later by a Darling’s concession statementwhich trailed nearly 6 percentage points, only a marginal shrinking of a wide lead Park had held since Election Day.

Park’s win will put six women on the city council that will be sworn in on Dec. 12, the most in Los Angeles history and the continuation of a trend. Karen Bass will become the city’s first female mayor, joining the new City Atty. Hydee Feldstein Soto, also the first woman in this position. Women also hold all five seats on the once male-dominated county board of supervisors.

Park’s election in council’s District 11 ends a winning streak in the fall election for progressive candidates in Los Angeles, including Kenneth Mejia as comptroller and Eunisses Hernandez and Hugo Soto-Martinez for the council municipal. The city’s political left had hoped that with current council member Nithya Raman and the others, Darling would get a fourth vote to spend less money on the police and more on other imperatives, especially helping the homeless.

“We are confident that our lead will hold and declare victory,” Park said in a statement. “It is gratifying that we have received more votes, so far, than any other candidate for LA City Council in the 2022 general election.

“I am humbled and honored that CD11 voters have placed their trust in me to usher in a new era,” Park said. “Voters have said convincingly they want a different kind of leader and CD11 has sent a message that the Westside is done with ‘business as usual’ at City Hall.”

Moments after Park’s statement, Darling tweeted a concession late Thursday afternoon, admitting he and his advisers no longer saw a “path to victory.” He said he had been “encouraged” by the support for his campaign, which he called a “last minute, totally grassroots affair, sometimes on a shoestring budget”.

He wished Park “the best” in the hard work of healing “the rancor and division of the past two years”, adding that “the Westside and LA in general have a deep need for healing and leadership that transcends the race and economic status.”

Park, 46, will succeed outgoing board member Mike Bonin in the district made up of communities from Pacific Palisades to Los Angeles International Airport. She has vowed to promote more moderate policies than Bonin, who has become one of the more left-leaning voices on the 15-member council.

Bonin had faced a recall challenge supported by Park. But when that challenge failed to garner enough signatures, Bonin surprised many in his district by refusing to run for a third term, citing concerns about his mental health.

That didn’t stop Park from showing up effectively against the incumbent. She painted the progressive Darling as a clone of Bonin, blaming their supposedly permissive views for the expansion of widespread homeless encampments that dot much of the district, particularly Venice.

Park vowed to vigorously invoke the city’s anti-camping ordinance to remove homeless encampments from areas around parks, libraries and other public facilities. Darling agreed with Bonin’s stance opposing the anti-camping law — Section 41.18 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code — saying LA must first do more to build temporary and permanent housing.

The two lawyers were also in deep disagreement over the city’s budget priorities. Park said the police department needed to be expanded to help curb a rise in crime, while Darling, 41, said he would shift some LAPD money to other priorities, especially hiring mental health workers to help homeless people in crisis.

Each candidate attacked the legal career of his adversary. The Park campaign beat Darling for representing an alleged rapist and other defendants, saying he favored criminals over victims. The Darling campaign criticized her for representing management, “corporate” interests and, in one case, the city of Anaheim, when she was accused by an employee of racism.

Darling struggled to get his message out as widely as Park, whose $751,000 runoff spending was more than 2.5 times Darling’s. The progressive candidate was hit even harder by an independent spending campaign, funded largely by landlords, real estate interests and the city’s police union – with Park’s total outside dollars of $1.4 million. dollars, about five times more than independent spending for Darling.

Darling used her opponent’s big backers to try to cast her as a tool of the rich and powerful. She, in turn, suggested he would be controlled by the most extreme segments of the left, including America’s Democratic Socialists and people who loudly shut down city council meetings.

Darling had the endorsement of the Democratic Socialists of America – who actively worked to elect Raman in 2020, Hernandez in the June primary and now Soto-Martinez. But Darling, who was born and raised in Venice, relied more on a network of volunteers, who had helped him win the June primary by more than 6 percentage points.

Park was once a Republican, but a wide range of support, including from elected officials such as Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, has helped bolster her credentials as a mainstream Democrat. She had a varied list of other funders, including professional organizations and unions, particularly those representing police and firefighters.

Raised in Downey and Apple Valley by a single mother who worked as a school secretary, Park often came to Los Angeles to visit grandparents who lived in what would later become the 11th Los Angeles Council District. Park made his way to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and attended Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

She has spent most of her legal career representing cities and other government agencies, most recently as a partner at Burke, Williams & Sorensen, a giant in the field. Park has advised and trained clients on issues such as gender parity and defended cities against litigation.

Los Angeles Times

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