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Mitch O'Farrell Beats the Candidate From Nowhere, John Choi, and a Union Machine

Hollywood and the Tri-Hipster Area are nothing if not independent, and on Tuesday they defied months of wrongheaded conventional wisdom that said John Choi, a guy nobody in City Council District 13 had heard of, could win an L.A. City Council seat thanks to riches from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and the hated DWP union.

Critics called it buying an election. It certainly appeared that way at times.

But voters defied the experts who said the obscure Choi was the frontrunner thanks to big money unions urging voters to the polls. Choi was not the frontrunner, ever. O'Farrell, the respected field deputy to Eric Garcetti, was. O'Farrell won decisively ...

One fascinating tidbit: Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti did a bit of cowering by failing to endorse his own trusted deputy, O'Farrell, until a week before Tuesday's election. Garcetti was no doubt afraid to piss off the County Fed's queen of behind-the-scenes political kingmaking, Maria Elena Durazo. (A harbinger of things to come?)

Here's the final tally, although some absentee and provisional ballots are still being counted:

Mitch O'Farrell 11,556 53.1%

John J. Choi 10,224 46.9%

Choi's candidacy was so odd that it perked up the slumbering members who sit on the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times, people who often back candidates who get major help from cash-rich unions but whose track records are grist for a civics lesson in bad government.

A good example is the Times' fascinating "We're sorry" endorsement of new Los Angeles City Councilman Felipe Fuentes, who personified bad government during his stint in the California state legislature.

But in Choi's case, the Times singled him out as a troubling City Council candidate due to his open fealty to unions.

Choi served on the obscure L.A. Board of Public Works for less than a year and demonstrated little knowledge of the community to which he moved. Over time, he began to grasp issues in CD 13. He insisted he gained an understanding of the city's infrastructure and other problems on that public works board.

O'Farrell was a decidedly different candidate. He was far better informed than Choi due to his many years working with people and groups in the district, and even some of his critics said he was fair-minded in dealings with residents of CD 13.