Kevin de León was never lacking in ambition.
Ignoring long odds, he made a hard-line attempt to remove fellow Democrat Dianne Feinstein from the US Senate.
He barely warmed up his Los Angeles City Council seat before launching himself into the mayoral race.
Both efforts were unsuccessful. But until De León was caught screwing up on a recording full of racist, homophobic, cruel and cutting remarks, neither setback seemed to have done him any real harm.
Few – let alone De León – considered the council the pinnacle of his public career. There was talk of another statewide run, perhaps for lieutenant governor, a job that was a stepping stone for two of California’s youngest governors, including Gavin Newsom.
Now, with him stripped of his power at City Hall and protesters camping out in his Eagle Rock neighborhood, the question is whether De León’s once-bright political future has gone the way of the Dodgers’ shattered World Series dreams.
On Wednesday, the 55-year-old councilor broke a long silence to reaffirm his intention to remain in office. “No, I will not resign because there is still a lot of work ahead of us,” De León said in an interview with Noticiero Univision.
This stubbornness doesn’t bode well for his future.
By challenging it and refusing to quit, De León may be hoping not just to hold on to his council seat for another two years, but to preserve his chances of bigger and better things beyond City Hall.
Good luck with it.
“I don’t think anything is impossible in politics,” said Bill Carrick, a longtime Democratic strategist and Feinstein advisor. “But it would be very, very difficult.”
There are many politicians who have survived knee-breaking scandals and, after picking themselves up, have found prosperity. bill clinton John McCain. And last but not least, Donald Trump.
Newsom was re-elected mayor of San Francisco after a particularly sordid episode involving an extramarital affair with the wife of a friend and longtime aide. Newsom – months before seeking a second term – acknowledged his wrongdoing, apologized and said he would seek counseling about alcohol abuse.
“Never underestimate the public’s ability to forgive when you ask for that forgiveness and they think you mean it,” said Roger Salazar, a Democratic adviser who served as spokesman for De León’s Senate campaign.
Of course, not all political scandals are created equal. Some involve personal faults that can be healed with a show of humility and repentance. Others stem from misuse of public assets, a breach of trust, or an act of hypocrisy — but is it really that shocking for a politician to say one thing and do the other?
The scandal eclipsing Los Angeles City Hall is of a different magnitude.
The secretly taped bigotry and casual venom that led to the resignations of council president Nury Martinez and union leader Ron Herrera, and shattered the reputations of De León and fellow councilor Gil Cedillo, was uglier and more damaging than a mere personal transgression.
“It was an attack on an entire community,” Carrick said.
Like a poisoned hodgepodge, there was something on the recording that turned everyone’s stomach. There was also much to offend members of several key Democratic constituencies, including Latinos, women, Jews, and especially black voters.
The Worum chorus will bring up former President Trump, who withstood countless controversies to win the White House and, on various occasions, has offended virtually every man, woman and child on earth.
“We are Democrats. We’re supposed to be better,” said a party strategist in Sacramento, who asked not to be named lest her political clients be dragged into the City Hall filth. “If you call people on a regular basis, you can’t accept that kind of racist talk and behavior from any of us.”
Several of the state’s top political practitioners offered De León some free, unsolicited advice: Leave the council, now. To apologize.
“People believe in salvation,” said a former state Legislative Chairman who worked closely with De León in Sacramento and asked not to be named to preserve their personal connection. “But when you’re trying to get through it … it’s hard to get redemption if there’s no meaningful effort or apology.”
On Wednesday, De León said he was sorry.
“I apologize to all my people, to my entire community, for the damage caused by the painful words that day last year,” De León said in an interview with Noticiero Univision host León Krauze.
But he went so far, which fell far short of what many dictated.
After resigning and apologizing, Politicians agreed De León should go away for a while. Do good work for some of those in the communities he has offended. Stay out of the public eye and forget about a political comeback anytime soon.
“Don’t resign from the council one day and then three days later announce you’re running for something else,” said Democratic adviser Garry South.
For now, De León’s political intentions should be the least of his musings.
When he submitted his bid for the Senate in 2017, De León attacked Feinstein for hinting early in Trump’s term that the stubborn and mean president might grow and become a better man.
“We can’t keep our fingers crossed and hope that Trump can learn and change,” De León said, scolding Feinstein for harboring false hopes.
He was right. Trump never learned and changed.
Maybe De León can do better.
https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-10-19/kevin-de-leon-racist-audio-leak-can-he-survive-scandal Is Kevin de León a political dead man walking?