O’Farrell Re-Elected Amid Questions
The status quo all but sailed its way to victory in the March 7th elections, with seven of eight Los Angeles City Council incumbents posting wins, often by large margins, while two candidates in the Council District 13 race are claiming the campaign of newly re-elected Mitch O’Farrell engaged in voter fraud in the Little Armenia community.
O’Farrell won re-election easily in the March 7th race with 60% of the vote. His closest challenger was upstart tenants’ rights advocate Sylvie Shain who received 13.8%.
Early this morning, a spokesperson for opponent Jessica Salans, who placed third in the race with 13.1% of the vote, indicated the campaign would be filing a complaint today regarding possible illegal voter fraud in the district, specifically targeting elderly Armenians. However, according to an attorney working with Salans, no such action would be taken until at least this weekend, if at all. The attorney said the Salans campaign will be attempting to find more witnesses in the upcoming days.
According to Salans campaign spokesperson Akio Katano, Salans canvassers reported they had met an elderly husband and his wife in Little Armenia who said “a group of men, speaking Armenian” came to their door on Monday and helped them fill out their vote-by-mail ballots. According to Katano, the men then took the ballots with them, telling the couple they would cast their ballots for them. Katano said the couple later told the Salans canvassers they did not know whom they had voted for.
Additionally, according to Salans, her campaign has video of such possible fraud. “It validates what we had been hearing,” she said this morning. Salans said she was unsure to the quality of the video, in response to a request to release it by the Ledger. She indicated her campaign would be reviewing it today.
Such action, which constitutes illegal voter fraud, was alleged in the 2013 election as well, with the same pool of Armenian voters, when O’Farrell was in a tight race with John Choi.
In that race, Choi accused O’Farrell’s campaign of illegally filling out and then taking dozens of vote-by-mail ballots for Armenian voters. O’Farrell’s campaign, rebutted the claims and instead claimed it was Choi’s campaign that had done so.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney investigated the claims, but no action was taken.
The issue of potential voter fraud has been swirling in the district for the last 10 days or so. At least one other complaint of such activity was recently called in to the county’s voter fraud hotline, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar. Additionally, candidate Bill Zide mentioned the issue of possible Armenian voter fraud at a February 27th candidate forum.
“We intend to file a complaint later today,” said Salans’ spokesperson Katano, “if our attorneys have not already done so. I believe we will find more [incidences of fraud], honestly.”
Attempts to reach the O’Farrell campaign by email and phone were unsuccessful.
Yesterday’s election had a record low 11.29% ballots cast of 5.2 million registered voters.
“It’s kind of a disgrace,” said Anita Little from losing mayoral candidate Mitchell Schwartz’s headquarters of the paltry turnout. “This is the first local election I’ve voted in. After November 8th, I realized it all begins at the local level.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti easily won re-election and was celebrating early. The mayor jumped to an overwhelming lead early in the evening and held an 80% vote the entire night.
“It’s incredibly depressing with the issues L.A. is facing,” said Garcetti’s key opponent, Windsor Square resident Mitchell Schwartz, of the low turnout. “I fault the media, the bigger papers and TV, for not covering [the election] enough, but of course, the people need to get out there and vote.”
Easily the most controversial measure on the ballot, Measure S, lost 31.1% to 68.8%.
The initiative would have halted for two years all new developments requesting zoning changes, and would require a public review of the city’s general plan every five years. Additionally, it would require city staff to oversee environmental impact reports for new developments, rather than continue to allow developers to conduct their own environmental studies.
“Although the vote on Measure S fell short, we are humbled by tens of thousands of voters who are clearly saying it’s time for L.A. City Hall—our City Council and Mayor—to end their backroom deals with billionaire developers and work for the public interest, not the special interests,” campaign manager, Jill Stewart said in a statement released early Wednesday morning. “City leaders and billionaire developers came at us with everything—far more money and virtually the entire establishment—yet we changed the conversation in a city where leaders one year ago denied the presence of a serious problem inside City Hall. The Yes on Measure S campaign has given residents confidence to demand transparency and accountability from city leaders.”
Another key measure—County Measure H—a complement to Measure HHH, the $1.2 billion homeless housing bond that passed in November 2016 with over 77% of the vote—also eked out a victory, at the last minute, with 67.4% approval. The measure needed a 2/3 vote for passage. The measure will increase the Los Angeles county sales tax by 0.25% for 10 years in order to fund homeless services and prevention.
In the Council District 13 race, O’Farrell had garnered a large lead early in the evening—74% of the vote—much of that from vote-by-mail ballots.
That margin, however, slowly slipped throughout the night with upstart candidate Sylvie Shain gaining on O’Farrell with day-of votes.
At the end of the evening, however, O’Farrell held steady, receiving 60.3% of the vote.
For her part, Shain, a founding member of the Los Angeles Tenants Union, held out hope the day of votes would put her into a runoff with O’Farrell.
“This is going to be a long night for those of you who want to hang in there and watch the results come in,” she told a crowd at her campaign headquarters in Sunset Junction an hour or so after polls closed.
But even with defeat, Shain said her campaign had won.
“Aside from the results, we have done incredible work pushing the conversation that needed to be had about issues: housing and homelessness, campaign contributions coming from people with too much money and power. And we forced a sitting councilmember to start responding,” to constituents, she said.
Other winners Tuesday were incumbents Paul Koretz (CD5), Curren Price, Jr. (CD9), Mike Bonin (CD11), Joe Buscaino (CD15) and Bob Blumenfield (CD3), who ran unopposed. Incumbent Gil Cedillo (CD1) appears to have missed a run-off by a razor thin margin, thought it won’t be clear until all provisional ballots are counted.
Monica Rodriguez and Karo Torossian will face each other in a May 16th runoff in the previously vacated Council District 7.
Tuesday’s city of Los Angeles primary election was consolidated with 27 other cities and five school districts and included the countywide ballot measure H, per a vote last December by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Today’s election results will be certified March 31st and official results announced April 4th.
This story was updated at 10:25 a.m. with information from the Salans campaign regarding taking no action today on filing a complaint of possible voter fraud by the O’Farrell campaign and to add information from Jessica Salans regarding video footage she said the campaign has showing voter fraud.