By Libby Denkmann/LAist
Originally published Sep 21, 2021
After a couple years of speculation over his political goals, City Councilmember Kevin de León made it official: On Tuesday, he announced a bid to become mayor of Los Angeles.
The longtime elected official promised to “chart a new course” for the city, citing recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, housing instability and homelessness as his top priorities. He also emphasized his own low-income background and the way it connects him to struggling Angelenos.
“I can remember the deep shame, the embarrassment, the look on my mother’s face when the landlord would come pounding on that door, demanding his rent,” he recalled. “The people of Los Angeles deserve to know that they are not alone — that their next mayor knows what housing insecurity feels like.”
The announcement was made at the El Pueblo Monument near Olvera Street, surrounded by sign-waving supporters.
He was elected last year to represent the 14th council district, which stretches from downtown to Boyle Heights, El Sereno and Eagle Rock. During the campaign, reporters and political rivals pressed him on whether he would remain to complete his term or run for higher office when Mayor Eric Garcetti’s term is up, in 2022. He refused to sign a pledge to stay in office for his full term.
Prior to joining City Hall, de León was the Democratic leader in the state senate in Sacramento and also a member of the Assembly. He waged a longshot, and ultimately doomed challenge to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein for her seat in 2018. He often relates how he first became politically involved as a young teacher in Los Angeles demonstrating against Proposition 187 in the 1990s.
The 14th district has seen turmoil in recent years: de León took office last October after former councilmember José Huizar stepped down under a cloud of federal corruption charges, including bribery and racketeering.
The mayor’s race in Los Angeles will heat up in the coming weeks and months, as candidates look ahead to the June primary. City Attorney Mike Feuer and City Councilmember Joe Buscaino have already announced campaigns. And there’s increasing speculation around the plans of Los Angeles Congresswoman Karen Bass, who says she is “seriously considering” her own campaign to lead the city. (Council President Nury Martinez and Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas have decided not to run.)
A victory by de León would make him the second candidate to rise from the 14th council district to become mayor. Antonio Villaraigosa, L.A.’s first Latino mayor in recent time, represented the district while he successfully campaigned for the job in 2005.
This report is reprinted with permission from Southern California Public Radio. © 2021 Southern California Public Radio. All rights reserved.