Take heart, my fellow travelers, the struggle for a fair and just society is always a long and difficult journey — no one ever said it would be easy.
JFK called it a “twilight struggle” and that’s what we see this morning. We may feel like we were hit by a truck, but it was just the City Hall political machine that used — and abused — its position, its power, its money to prevail on Tuesday.
Don’t let that obscure the real progress that was made and how much so many people involved in LA Clean Sweep and in the individual campaigns learned.
Now we must go to work to build on that progress for 2013 when the mayor and six Council seats are open as well as possibly the Controller’s position.
In 2007, five incumbents ran unopposed. This time, every one of the seven seats on the ballot was contested and the election results show how little it would have taken to have thrown them out of office.
Four years ago, incumbents ran unopposed in (Greuel now Krekorian) District 2, (LaBonge) District 4, (Parks) District 8, and (Wesson) District 10. This time they all faced challengers and their portions of the vote fell from 100 percent to 76 percent, 55 percent, 51 percent, and 74 percent respectively.
Turnout in those races jumped by 30 percent, 80 percent, 70 percent and 25 percent respectively.
Four years ago, Smith in District 12 ran unopposed, getting 14,749 votes. His anointed successor (Chief of Staff Englander) got 11,448 or 57 percent of the more than 20,000 votes cast — a turnout increase of more than a third — with Brad Smith leading the field of five challengers at 25 percent of the vote.
In Cardenas’ District 6, his vote total in competitive races fell from 4,803 to 4,009 and his percentage of the vote fell from 66 percent to 59 percent with Rich Goodman leading the challengers. Turnout was roughly the same.
The same is true in Huizar’s District 14 — always the most fiercely contested seat — where the incumbent’s total was down slightly from 67 to 64 percent and turnout up 10 percent.
It would have taken just 1,700 more voters to have forced LaBonge into a runoff against Tomas O’Grady who got 31 percent of the vote with Stephen Box third. Just 1,200 more votes would have forced Cardenas into a runoff, 300 in the Parks’ race, 3,000 in the Englander race.
You can cut those numbers in half if we can change the minds of those who did turn out and cast ballots.
We need to recruit strong candidates for 2013 and share our collective knowledge of City Hall and city politics with them, get training in running campaigns and fund-raising from experts.
But first and foremost, we need to bring together the hundreds of community groups that already are working for change in their own communities to reach out and organize to build a true citywide army working for a greater Los Angeles — a city where everyone is respected and has a seat at the table of power.