Controversial L.A. City Council Member Kevin De León, Caught On Racially-Charged Recording, To Seek Reelection
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Kevin de León, who defiantly held onto his Los Angeles City Council seat despite persistent calls for his resignation – including one from President Joe Biden – following his participation in a racially charged recorded conversation that led to former Council President Nury Martinez’s resignation, said today he plans to seek reelection in 2024.

In the recording, the reporting of which won the L.A. Times a Pulitzer Prize, Martinez used the Spanish term for “monkey” to refer to then-fellow councilmember Mike Bonin’s son, while de León appeared to agree with her comment that the child was used as a fashion accessory like Martinez’s designer handbag. De León later called that remark “flippant.”

De León made his reelection announcement in an interview with Politico, saying he is confident he still has support among constituents in his district, which includes most of Downtown L.A., Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, El Sereno, Eagle Rock and parts of Northeast L.A.

“When a lot of people that I called my friends and allies turned away from me, my constituents had my back,” de León told Politico. “I understood in a deeper way the relationship that I had with my community and how that motivates and drives me. That’s why I’m still here. And that’s why I’m running.”

In October 2022, activists shut down a City Council meeting over the racially-charged conversation among the three members.

De León has been on the council since 2020 and made an unsuccessful run for mayor last year. He previously served in the state Senate and Assembly.

Even before the recording became public, the city council was rocked by a succession of scandals, with former councilmember José Huizar pleading guilty to federal racketeering and tax evasion charges earlier this year, former councilmember Mark Ridley Thomas being expelled from the council and later convicted on federal conspiracy, bribery and fraud charges and sentenced to 3 years in prison and former councilmember Mitchell Englander sentenced in 2021 to 14 months in federal prison for his conduct surrounding his obstruction of a public-corruption investigation.

Two well-known local politicians – Assembly members Wendy Carrillo and Miguel Santiago – have already announced bids for the de León’s seat.

“Enough is enough. People are hurting. Kevin de León’s participation in the racist tapes scandal was so extreme that everybody from local constituents to President (Joe) Biden called for him to resign,” Santiago said in a statement Wednesday morning. “Council member de León should not be announcing his re-election today, he should be announcing his resignation.”

Santiago also accused de León of failing his constituents, citing a rise in homelessness and evictions in the 14th District, and calling city services in de León’s district “abysmal.”

She said Districk 14 has “unfortunately had two back-to-back council members that haven’t had the best reputation as of late,” alluding to the scandal with Huizar, who also represented the 14th District.

De León has defied continued calls for his resignation, but has been stripped by the council of major committee assignments and largely shunned by colleagues.

An attempt to recall de León failed in April because it did not receive the necessary number of signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The primary election for the seat will be held in March. If no candidate receives at least 50% of the vote, a runoff will be held in November.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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