There's no question about it now. With Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's endorsement of Los Angeles City Council District 13 candidate John Choi today, City Hall's political establishment is squarely behind a man who's had little to no ties with the communities — such as Hollywood, Silver Lake, and Echo Park — he hopes to serve. Choi moved into CD 13 in 2012.

It's not as if L.A.'s political insiders didn't have a choice. In the May 21 runoff, Choi is facing Mitch O'Farrell, a former field deputy to Councilman Eric Garcetti who's a Democrat and has worked with CD 13 neighborhood leaders for years.

For some reason, Villaraigosa, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, and numerous other Democratic power players aren't too keen on him. Wonder why?

In the L.A. Weekly news story “Who is Mystery Man John Choi?” political observers and CD 13 community activists suspect L.A. County Fed boss Maria Elena Durazo — a former boss of Choi's — wants to build up a solid, pro-labor union council to fend off city budget cuts that may affect her union members.

A Choi victory in May would help make that happen — Choi once worked at the County Fed and has expressed strong, pro-labor sentiments on the campaign trail.

Choi is also a favorite son of Villaraigosa, who once employed Choi as a special assistant, or “body man,” and later appointed him to a plum $122,000-a-year job as a board member of the Department of Public Works.

O'Farrell, interestingly enough, wants to get rid of that job, which he considers a patronage position.

O'Farrell placed first in the March 5 primary, but he's facing a huge political machine in Villaraigosa, Durazo, and company.

With a massive war chest, numerous big-name endorsements, and enormous political and financial backing from kingmaker Durazo, the political calculus adds up to a Choi win. Can O'Farrell pull off the underdog victory?

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at

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