By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Now here’s a governing coalition.
As the accompanying map makes clear, Jim Hahn put together a one-time hodgepodge of an Election Day majority. He ran strongest in the city’s most heavily African-American council district (the 8th, Mark Ridley-Thomas’), while his second best district was L.A.’s most Republican (the west Valley’s 12th, Hal Bernson’s). His third best was Laura Chick’s overwhelmingly white west Valley 3rd District, and his fourth was Old Nate Holden’s 10th District, still an African-American stronghold when it comes to voting.
In short, the Hahn majority is a house divided against itself. When a candidate pulls 80 percent support among African-Americans and 79 percent support among Republicans, his stars are aligned as they are never likely to be again. It’s hard to think of very many issues on which Hahn’s two bases agree. Certainly not police reform or renewing the contract of Bernie Parks. Certainly not the contracts of city employee unions, which are disproportionately African-American.
We’ve seen this lineup just once before in L.A.’s political history: the 1994 vote on Proposition 187, which saw South-Central districts joining the west Valley to support Pete Wilson’s immigrant-bashing initiative. This year’s vote is by no means that sinister: Had Antonio Villaraigosa been running off against, say, Republican Steve Soboroff rather than the Son of Kenny Hahn, I don’t doubt that L.A.’s African-American voters would have gone with Villaraigosa, as they went with Tom Hayden four years ago and Mike Woo eight years ago against (in both instances) Republican Richard Riordan.
The Villaraigosa coalition, both geographically and politically, was the more coherent and compact — a little too compact, in fact, to reach 50 percent. He carried five of the city’s 15 council districts, running strongest in the three represented by Latino council members (in order, Mike Hernandez’s 1st District, Nick Pacheco’s 14th and Alex Padilla’s 7th). He also won Jackie Goldberg’s old district, the 13th, and, narrowly, the late John Ferraro’s 4th District (suggesting that Ferraro’s successor can, and will likely, be positioned well to the left of old John).
There are two distinct ways to measure Latino turnout in the election, which is why the commentary on this issue has been all over the map. Among registered voters, Latinos actually outperformed every other group in the city, voting at a 41 percent rate (according to the estimates of the William C. Velásquez Institute) compared to an overall citywide total of 36 percent. The two council districts with the highest rates of turnout were Villaraigosa’s best, Pacheco’s and Hernandez’s, and this was a last-shall-be-first achievement, since these are among the city’s poorest and least politically powerful districts. Turning out these voters was the work of the labor movement — more particularly, of the Farm Workers, the Janitors, and the Hotel and Restaurant unions, all of whom, clearly, did a stellar job.
The problem for Villaraigosa was that the raw number of registered Latinos still isn’t particularly high. Hernandez’s district — his strongest, and number two in percentage of registered voters who went to the polls — also ranked dead last in the absolute number of people who voted. Indeed, the four districts that the former Assembly speaker carried with over 60 percent support ranked 15th, 11th, 13th and 12th out of the 15 council districts in the overall number of voters who went to the polls. While the Villaraigosa operation was first-rate, the Villaraigosa universe was too small to begin with.
Villaraigosa was also hurt by the age skew that is a permanent fixture of American politics — by the fact that the old outvote the young in virtually every election. Among voters under 45, Villaraigosa won a hefty 57 percent support — but voters under 45 constituted just 38 percent of the electorate on June 5. The silver lining on this cloud, of course, is what it portends for Villaraigosa’s coalition, and, indeed, for the city at large. Fully 55 percent of the Latino vote, moreover, was under 45. In the long run, the future in Los Angeles belongs to Antonio Villaraigosa and his legions.
But in the short run, it belongs to Jim Hahn. Which is to say, at most, at best, that modest change awaits us.
Certainly, there couldn’t have been too many pulses that quickened at the news that Hahn had appointed attorney/banker Bill Wardlaw to head his transition team. Wardlaw served as Dick Riordan’s consiglierefor the first six years of Riordan’s mayoralty, and his return to the apex of power after a two-year exile portends an administration that is at the cutting edge of — well, nothing. Nonetheless, Hahn is a mainstream Democrat who in the course of the campaign, partly as a result of pressure from Villaraigosa, pledged himself to a number of progressive departures from Riordan’s policies. Foremost among these, Hahn agreed to commit $100 million of city funds annually to an affordable-housing trust fund. The Riordan administration simply declined to craft an affordable-housing policy at all — a decision that looks particularly inexcusable with the publication of an L.A. Times analysis of new census data that shows Southern California to be absolutely the most residentially overcrowded section of the nation (the seven U.S. cities with the most overcrowded households are all heavily Latino, working-class L.A. suburbs, starting with Santa Ana and El Monte). Unlike Villaraigosa, Hahn never specified a source for the fund he proposed to create, but his proposal is a major advance over past policy — and one to which he should be vigilantly held.
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