Things are certainly changing in L.A. City Council District 9, although politicians and certain news outlets may play it down for the public. You see, African American leaders want to keep a black councilmember in that district -- Jan Perry will be termed out this year -- while Latino politicos want to grab that seat.
"Latino leaders have long wanted to open a new front" where the Latino population is growing, says political analyst Jaime Regalado. "Latinos have been eyeing those districts [like CD 9] for years."
Even an Asian American LAPD deputy chief, Terry Hara, is making a bid, which all adds up to a very interesting City Council contest in which race really does matter -- at least for L.A.'s power brokers.
"There are the usual cultural tensions in that the entrenched blacks feel the Latinos are taking over their neighborhoods," says Dermot Damian Givens, an African American campaign consultant who's not involved in the CD 9 race. "While the politicians try to downplay it, it is very real."
Latino residents make up the majority of CD 9, but to the surprise of some, including analyst Regalado, David Roberts, who's black and a former staffer for District 8 Councilman Bernard Parks, got an endorsement from the Los Angeles Times.
"He came out of nowhere," Regalado says. "Early on, I didn't think much of his chances. I still don't think he's in the top two, but maybe he's gaining."
Either way, Regalado says, while Los Angeles' demographics are changing, and neighborhoods are becoming more Latino, the African American old guard still wants to maintain three seats on the City Council. "It's hard to lose one," he says.
Regalado says that golden number may soon be a thing of the past. But the problem for Latinos, Givens says, is that African American voters in CD 9 still turn out in a major way.
"The Latinos have the numbers" in terms of population, Givens says, "but no one has been able to reach them. Eventually their sheer numbers will get them a win. Maybe this time, but I don't think so."
The top-tier candidates in the seven-person race include David Roberts; Curren Price, an African American state senator who's backed by major labor unions; Terry Hara, an Asian American and Los Angeles deputy police chief; African American and former state assemblyman Mike Davis; and Latina candidate Ana Cubas, former chief of staff to District 14 Councilman Jose Huizar.
Cubas is the big hope for Latino politicos, but Regalado points out that she's essentially an "underdog" because she lacks strong support from labor unions.
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Cubas has been playing up the fact that she's the only woman in the CD 9 race, hoping she'll connect with black and brown female voters. Givens and Regalado just aren't sure it will work. Cubas, though, did grab an endorsement from former African American Councilwoman Rita Walters, who served in CD 9 between 1991 and 2001. Jan Perry replaced her.
The primary thing that's keeping deputy police chief Terry Hara competitive is that he's raised the most money of all the candidates: $218,376. "It's a hard thing to dismiss," Regalado says.
With the primary on March 5, the top two candidates will face each other in the May runoff. If Cubas and Hara don't grab one of the top spots, black leaders will get their way and maintain CD 9 for at least another four years.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.