Richard Alarcon, a man who has taken the term “career politician” to new and hilarious extremes, is running for Congress.
“It was a very last-minute decision,” Alarcon tells L.A. Weekly. “Running against an incumbent is not easy. And also, given my recent legal troubles, we had to give it a long and hard consideration.”
By “recent legal troubles,” he means his conviction, in 2014, of three counts of voter fraud and one count of perjury, stemming from charges that he was living in a house that wasn't in his City Council district and lying about it. Fortunately for Alarcon, that conviction was thrown out in January, after the 2nd District Court of Appeal found that the judge's jury instructions were improper.
The case could be retried, but that's unlikely, since Alarcon has already served 51 days of house arrest. But the fact that he's no longer considered a felon means Alarcon can now make his triumphant return to the political arena.
“I believe had I not had my legal issues, I’d be a contender for Congress,” Alarcon says. “Perhaps I’d be in Congress already.”
Alarcon's resume is dizzying: elected to L.A. City Council in 1993; retired from City Council to successfully run for state Senate in 1998; elected to the State Assembly in 2006, where he served for just 102 days (!) before heading back to City Council (better pay, better bennies). He tried to return to the State Assembly in 2012 but was defeated by Raul Bocanegra.
So what's Richard Alarcon been up to lately? According to a memo attached to his ballot designation worksheet, in which Alarcon is trying to get his ballot designation to read “Retired Public Servant” (which may or may not be allowed):
Since retiring as a public servant, Mr. Alarcon has been largely unable to work and has been distracted with other pressing concerns. He has largely has (sic) spent his time fighting his criminal charges, playing online poker, spending quality time with his wife and family, and successfully appealing his convictions as well as his wife's. He was recently successful in the latter endeavor having had his convictions reversed by the California Court of Appeals due to innocence as a matter of law. All in all, aside from a brief stint of house arrest, Mr. Alarcon can be said to be thoroughly enjoying his retirement.
So why would this happily retired lover of online poker decide to run for yet another political office? Alarcon points to Cardenas' own alleged legal issues. Last year, an aide to Cardenas was subpoenaed by a grand jury. And as the L.A. Times recently reported, the Cardenas campaign spent $231,470 on legal services from five Los Angeles law firms in 2015.
“We do know that Tony has spent a lot of money on criminal defense — more than my wife and I spent in the last 6½ years,” Alarcon says. “That gives me pause to think, where there's smoke, there might be fire. Although I’ve been through a process where I was determined not to have done anything, and that might be true in his case.”
Cardenas campaign spokesman Josh Pulliam responded in a statement:
“Voters see right through Alarcon. That's why he lost his last election. They know where he deserves to be sent, and it isn't to public office.”
Although the race promises to be a nasty little grudge match between two longtime Democratic politicians from warring East San Fernando Valley factions, Cardenas is considered a heavy favorite to hold onto his seat.
“I don’t know that Richard raises any money,” political consultant Leo Briones says. “He’s just doing it to tweak Tony.”
Says California Democratic Party vice chair Eric Bauman: “[Alarcon's] last election didn’t go very well. He didn’t perform very well. I’m not sure this is a good thing for him and for the party. … That said, Richard has every right to run. I suppose it’s gonna be what it's gonna be.”