East Valley Power Politics Shaped District 6 Runoff
Hillel Aron | May 16, 2013
As you may have read in last week’s LA Weekly about School Board member Nury Martinez’s bid for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council, there are surprisingly few women left on the Council thanks in large part to a rivalry between two male-dominated East San Fernando Valley political clans.
The rivalry between these two Latino clans doesn’t just affect the City Council, however. It also greatly influenced Tuesday’s District 6 runoff between Antonio Sanchez and Monica Ratliff.
A look at the East Valley political factions may provide some insight about how we ended up with the Sanchez-Ratliff runoff rather than any of the other configurations that initially appeared likely — and why teachers union UTLA refrained from picking a single candidate to support in the District 6 race. They simply didn’t want to get involved in a turf war between the Padillas and the Alarcons.
Of the candidates who initially declared their intention to run, the three heavyweights appeared to be Ernie Cardenas, Iris Zuniga and Antonio Sanchez.
Why Cardenas and Zuniga dropped out has never been fully explained, at least not in a totally satisfying way.
The area, as any political consultant will tell you, is dominated by two clans, the Alarcons and the Padillas:
The first is headed by outgoing City Councilman Richard Alarcon, and includes ex-Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (now a lobbyist and consultant for StudentsFirst), Antonio Sanchez, State Senator Kevin Deleon, community college trustees Steve Veres and Miguel Santiago, and Cindy Montanez, an ex-Assembly member who’s running against Nury Martinez for that city council seat.
(You might remember Cindy’s cousin, Annamarie, who was recruited by UTLA to run against Monica Garcia in District 2. Needless to say, LA politics is an incestuous world.)
The Padilla Clan
The other faction includes State Senator (and former LA City Council President) Alex Padilla — who championed a teacher dismissal bill in 2012 but then dropped the issue this year — incoming City Councilman Felipe Fuentes, U.S. Congressman Tony Cardenas (who recently vacated the City Council seat that Martinez and Montanez are running for), and State Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra.
It doesn’t stop there. Nury Martinez’ husband Jerry Guzman runs the field campaign for many pols within the clan, and who currently works for Bocanegra.
Ernie Cardenas had a connection to this clique, through his brother Tony. Zuniga also had a connection, through Nury Martinez, who wanted Zuniga to succeed her.
Both Martinez and Bocanegra endorsed Zuniga, but Padilla, Cardenas and Fuentes never did (neither have they endorsed Antonio Sanchez).
Why did the power brokers turn a cold shoulder to the two political newcomers? That’s not entirely clear, but it may have something to do with the Mayor.
Sanchez is a former aide to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is nominally aligned with the Alarcon clan, which backs Cindy Montanez.
One explanation is that Villaraigosa simply leaned on Padilla and Fuentes to support his former aide.
But some speculate that a trade was made — Padilla and Fuentes would sit the School Board race out, and in exchange, the Mayor would endorse Nury Martinez for City Council (as he eventually did).
Another possibility is that Padilla and Fuentes simply didn’t think Zuniga or Cardenas were ready for primetime. Or, they didn’t feel up for a fight with the SEIU.
And then Monica Garcia — Villaraigosa’s most trusted School Board member — may have asked the Mayor to endorse Martinez.