In the week after WWE hall of fame member Donald Trump was elected to the highest office in the land, more than 100 Angelenos filed paperwork to run for mayor or City Council, a veritable of stampede of candidates for an election that only a fraction of L.A. residents will vote in.
One of those who signed up is William Washington James Haynes, a 23-year-old online entertainer.
“I really do everything,” says Haynes, whose YouTube videos get hundreds of thousands of hits. “I’m an artist, an entertainer. I’m a studier of the world. I'm a comedian, a musician. Even a journalist at times.”
Add one more profession to that rather dizzying list – mayoral candidate. His number one platform? Improve L.A.'s tap water.
“The tap water here is not good,” he says. “I cannot ask the people to drink something I wouldn't.”
Haynes decided to run last week, in the wake of Trump's improbable ascendancy.
“I saw what the world came to after the election,” Haynes says. “Everything was flooded with negativity. I realized if you don’t take action, nothing will happen. I want to run a campaign of love.”
Haynes is just one of 23 people who have filed paperwork to run against incumbent Mayor Eric Garcetti, while 80 others have filed to run in the eight City Council races. Candidates now have until Dec. 7 to gather the 500 signatures necessary to qualify for the citywide ballot.
Next year will be the last odd-numbered election year in the foreseeable future, thanks to the passage of Amendment 1 by L.A. voters in 2015. (The amendment aims to increase voter turnout by having local elections take place during a gubernatorial or presidential election year.) Some political consultants say it's cheaper and easier to run for office in an odd-numbered year election, when there are fewer races vying for attention — hence the glut of candidates.
“A lot of folks who … have local base of support realize that to win even-year elections, it’s going to take a lot more money to get votes,” says political consultant Mac Zilber, who's running the campaign for Jesse Creed, a particularly well-funded challenger to City Councilman Paul Koretz.
No less than 30 candidates have declared their intentions to replace City Councilman Felipe Fuentes of District 7, who abruptly (and somewhat mysteriously) stepped down from his office in August. Would-be candidates include school board member Monica Ratliff; Board of Public Works commissioner Monica Rodriguez; Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council president Krystee Clark; Karo Torossian, a staffer for City Councilman Paul Krekorian; and Dale Gibson, a self-described “Rancher/Stuntman.”
The willingness of random citizens to challenge city hall incumbents may indicate a general distrust of sitting politicians, according to some candidates.
“There’s a loss of trust,” says Venice Beach resident David Ewing, who's declared his intent to run against City Councilman Mike Bonin. “If the councilman gives the community assurances that something is going to be done on a temporary basis, there’s no faith that the city is going to keep its word.”
Ewing says the recent L.A. Times expose about the Sea Breeze developer whose associates gave more than $40,000 to local politicians was a factor in his decision to run.
Mayoral candidate Mitchell Schwartz cites a general antipathy towards City Hall's pro-development stance as a reason for the glut of office-seekers.
“The number one reason for dissatisfaction is the development policies,” Schwartz says. “They’ve made it hard for regular people to live. They’re skewed toward luxury development.”
It is a rare occurrence for an incumbent city councilperson to be defeated in Los Angeles. The last time it happened was in 2003, when Antonio Villaraigosa, a former speaker of the state assembly, defeated City Councilman Nick Pacheco.
“I don’t know if that’s gonna change,” Ewing says. “It’s very difficult for an insurgent candidate to achieve the kind of public presence that’s required to beat an incumbent. We’ll see.”