Column: Voters in Kevin de León’s district support recalling him. Now comes the hard part

Kevin de León has started his 2023 the way he wants it: on his way back to a sense of normalcy.

He shows up to city council meetings and posts updates on social media as if the last 2 1/2 months of last year hadn’t happened – as if a leaked tape had captured him, two other council members and a union leader, the bigoted nonsense of hasn’t turned LA politics on its head.

Gone is the councilor who spent his December vindicating his image by handing out giveaways to voters, physically and rhetorically slapping activists who tried to shame him into resigning, and appearing in national and local media to reiterate, why he stayed

Reassured are the same activists who en masse disrupted the first few city council meetings that De León tried to attend with their bodies and scorns, and who are now fewer in number and have resigned themselves to booing every time De León enters the council chambers.

Quieter are De León’s councillors, many of whom called for his resignation following the leak and who left when he returned to town hall after a two-month hiatus. Now they just clench their teeth and hold their noses during meetings while going about town business lest their constituents suffer over an infatuated, defiant colleague.

De León is approaching his comeback like the political equivalent of a snapping turtle: a nuisance that not only doesn’t avoid progress, but also retreats into its shell and emerges to snap at people while daring its haters to push him aside.

Well folks you now have one hell of a pivot to help.

In early December, the Los Angeles City Clerk allowed a group of residents to collect signatures in an attempt to recall the councilman. It’s the fourth time he’s faced one in less than three years – the previous ones have failed.

De León has openly ridiculed those efforts, telling longtime LA radio host Earl Ofari Hutchinson in December that he had “enough anecdotal evidence to say that with some certainty.” [his constituents are] not happy with how the recall went.”

No longer!

A Los Angeles Times poll released Jan. 22 shows that a majority of registered voters in De León’s county want him out of here.

51 percent of respondents think he should resign. Fifty-eight percent would vote “yes” if a recall goes to the vote.

In the past, De León has said he is being pursued by the white residents of Eagle Rock and Highland Park, while his working-class Latino constituents want him to stay. There is a small racial gap in The Times poll – 64% of white voters want him eliminated, while only 43% of Latino voters do. But more than half of voters in more Latino neighborhoods like Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights said they were willing to give him the heave-ho, too.

There’s just no way De León can tip the Times poll in his favor. More Latinos looked at him unfavorably than his colleague, former council president Nury Martinez, who called the Oaxacans “ugly” and compared former councilman Mike Bonin’s black son to a little monkey, amid much shame. Only 32% of Latinos polled think De León is principled or honest, and 56% believe the Eastside politician “puts his own political self-interest ahead of the people he represents.”

After The Times published the story about the tape, Martinez resigned, as did Los Angeles County Labor Federation President Ron Herrera. The fourth person on the tape, Gil Cedillo, ignored calls to resign but left the city council in December after losing re-election to a newcomer.

More significantly, 55% of Latinos polled in the Times poll agreed that protests against De León — which included campouts outside his home and activists yelling at him during a Christmas toy gift — led to the councilman one to the ground – “fair” and “hold him accountable”. That’s more than the 46% of white voters who think the same way.

Given that Latinos make up more than half of District 14’s voting-age population, based on these poll results, De León faces an almost certain defeat if the recall ever gets to voters.

But there are pinch rub.

People protest against Kevin de León at Los Angeles City Hall.

Crowds of protesters demanding Kevin de Leon’s resignation or the cancellation of the meeting faced police while a City Council meeting was on hiatus at Los Angeles City Hall last fall.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Recalls are notoriously expensive and difficult to pull off. The last LA councilman to be removed from office in this manner was Meade McClanahan, who was recalled in 1946 just months after his election for refusing to renege on his support of an anti-Semite.

To get the recall on the ballot, organizers need to collect 20,437 valid signatures by March 31 — 15% of registered voters in District 14. But their GoFundMe has so far raised just over $1,000 — a pittance in the Politics. You need help. But instead of supporting those efforts, many progressives have kept them at bay while they ponder their own attempt.

Typical of this mindset is the LA chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, which published a statement on its website last month saying it wanted De Leon recalled but advising fellow travelers to be “skeptical” about the current campaign , since their proponents are “conservative messaging.”

This is a reference to Pauline Atkins, the Eagle Rock resident who has led two previous unsuccessful attempts to recall De León, largely due to her dislike of his homeless policies, and has posted pro-Trump messages on her Facebook page. She is a signer of the current recall.

For this reason, DSA-LA labeled this latest anti-de León push “unlikely to succeed on its current path” and instead voted to “reach leftists, unions and progressive coalition partners with the goal of establishing an exploratory committee of the Coalition to Recall” De León to use Leon.

Nothing against DSA-LA, but they should be marching with the recall in front of them, not the recall they want. Political purity could ruin such a great chance for Los Angeles to heal as it has right now.

This megalopolis of division, stratification, and segregation needs a unifying ground — something it hasn’t had since the 1987 telethon, after the Los Angeles Central Library was devastated in a fire.

De León gets rid of this something. The Times poll shows that this is not only doable, it can be done, and a citywide effort can ensure that happens.

South LA nonprofits like the Community Coalition have already protested the councilman, alongside Eastside groups like Inner City Struggle. But now it’s time for Westside Liberals to pull out their checkbooks and donate to the recall so organizers can spend the money needed. Now it’s time for the Sherman Oaks retiree who championed Proposition 13 in the 1970s to speak to Bernese about voting strategies.

It’s time everyone heard the cry of frustration coming from District 14. If De León serves out the rest of his term as planned, then Angelenos will have no one to blame but themselves.

To allude to one of the most famous quotes in California history, uttered by William Mulholland when the Los Angeles Aqueduct released water from the Owens Valley into the San Fernando Valley:

There it is, LA Take it. Column: Voters in Kevin de León’s district support recalling him. Now comes the hard part

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