Hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions are already pouring into the City Council District 4 (CD4) race that’s still a year away.
In anticipation of the March 3rd, 2015 general election, the district’s fundraising figures currently dwarf all other open seat elections in the city. And as new candidate community advocate David Ryu enters the race, termed-out CD4 representative Tom LaBonge’s seat is shaping up to be the most contested in the city.
Carolyn Ramsay, LaBonge’s chief of staff, led the now 10-person candidate pack in fundraising dollars at the end of 2013, according to candidate-filed reports with the city. In all, she had raised about $109,000 since filing her paperwork to run in early September and touts that more than 70% of her contributions came in small donations from residents living within the districts’ 21 zip codes, spanning through parts of Los Feliz, Griffith Park, Silver Lake, Toluca Lake, Sherman Oaks, Hollywood Hills and Hancock Park.
According to Ramsay’s finance report, these 200 campaign contributions account for $79,000 — surpassing any other candidate’s total fundraising to that date. No person may donate more than $700 to a City Council candidate.
“I am the community candidate, and I’m proud of it,” she said. “I have been working with these folks on problem solving to make the city better for more than a dozen years and they know I’ll stand up for their neighborhoods to make this community better. This district is my home.”
Community College District Trustee Steve Veres follows Ramsay with the second most funds raised so far, totaling almost $71,200. As well, he has racked up several early labor union endorsements. An aide to state Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), Veres’ in-district contributions have been considerably less than Ramsay’s. He had raised just over $11,000 in the district’s zip codes, adding up to almost 16% of his contributions.
Veres said his fundraising reflects on a coalition of support he’s built from neighborhood and community leaders within CD4 and the rest of the city.
“I look forward to gaining the trust of the people and neighborhoods of the 4th District and engaging in issues they care most about,” he said.
Five new candidates filed paperwork since that first finance report deadline and there is plenty of time for more candidates to enter and new frontrunners to emerge.
Teddy Davis, a fellow at USC’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics and one-time aide to former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, said he would start canvassing the district door-to-door on March 3rd, a year before the general election. He said he plans to visit every one of the district’s 14,648 likely voters’ 12,976 households — numbers pulled from the voter information provider Political Data Inc.
“I believe if you want to do this job, it’s block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, you got to know what’s going on, so there’s no substitute to walking the district,” he said.
President of the Los Angeles City Attorneys’ Assn. Oscar Winslow, who filed his paperwork to run in January, sees this campaign with “some really qualified candidates” who are “aggressively fundraising” as a positive.
A police officer of 22 years and a former district attorney, Winslow said this competition will benefit voters with more information in choosing the best candidate.
“The difference that I bring is I’ve had a public service career that deals with this, talking to people, understanding their issues, helping them to identify issues that they weren’t even aware of, and resolving those issues,” he said. “And I think that’s going to make a difference. You’ve got people who are experienced politicians, you’ve got people who have been in the district working in the district, but they don’t have that connection of working it from a street-level in a police car and understanding what a lot of these people go through.”
The newcomer Ryu spoke optimistically about his chances entering the race as a community candidate. He said this race will be, “less about endorsements, less about money. It’s gonna be hand-to-hand combat fought with your shoes and knocking, going to the people.”
Ryu, 39, the son of Korean immigrants, grew up near the district, south of Los Feliz. Now director of development, government and public affairs at the Kedren Community Mental Health Center, since his undergraduate years at the University of California Los Angeles, Ryu has been engaged with non-profit and various advocacy groups including the Korean American Coalition working conflict resolution between African-American and Korean-American groups after the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.
Following work with the United Nations, it was a position in former Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke’s office that turned him on to politics.
That was “the greatest experience ever,” he said, “this was the job I’d always wanted to do, but never knew this is what it was. Because it is the elected official who where there’s a will there’s a way, where they can make change happen, right?”
Ryu said this is the right time for him to enter politics as term limits are bringing massive change to the city’s political structure. He expects maybe eight more candidates to file paperwork to run for the city council seat and about 10 to stay in the race after delivering nominating petitions later this year.
In speaking with other potential community candidates, Ryu said he has been support of their running. He said he tells them, “The more of us there are the more issues we bring to the table. No one’s going to walk into this.”
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