Till I joined The Occasions 4 years in the past, I cared as a lot about Los Angeles politics as I did the Peoria Metropolis Council.
I knew the most important names, in fact — Bradley, Gates, Yaroslavsky, Garcetti, even Joel Wachs. They had been inescapable, broadcast to my house each night time through tv and printed within the pages of this newspaper each morning.
However I’ve lived my whole life in Orange County, so the day-to-day enterprise of L.A. politics was simply background noise. L.A. Metropolis Corridor didn’t register with my kinfolk in East Los Angeles, Montebello and the San Gabriel Valley both.
But I nonetheless appeared to L.A. for inspiration, by the Latinos who made historical past with each election they received.
Gloria Molina, the primary Latina to develop into an L.A. Metropolis Council member and county supervisor. Antonio Villaraigosa, the primary Latino mayor of Los Angeles in 130 years when he received in 2005. Jose Huizar, born within the rancho between my mother and father’ villages, who turned the primary Mexican immigrant elected to the L.A. Metropolis Council. Hilda Solis, an Meeting member turned Congress member turned U.S. secretary of Labor turned first Central American elected to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, immigrant rights organizers who continued their righteous campaigns within the California Legislature earlier than becoming a member of the L.A. Metropolis Council.
In Orange County, the few Latino politicians had been principally egomaniacs who offered out their neighborhood on the drop of a developer donation. I felt that L.A. Latino politicians had been above that. They had been paragons of the neighborhood that cast them, examples of what Latinos may do if solely we may get political energy.
There have been some unhealthy apples — Councilmember Richard Alarcón and his residency points, corruption-ridden southeast L.A. County cities like Bell and South Gate, Huizar and the federal bribery expenses in opposition to him. However many of the critiques I heard in opposition to L.A. Latino pols within the media and from mates appeared like racism, bitter grapes or gripes from liberals who didn’t know the way good they’d it in contrast with a very oppressive place like O.C.
Once I started to cowl L.A. for this paper and reached out to these political pioneers, I used to be flattered in the event that they stated they preferred my work down in O.C. As different Latino politicians assumed essential posts — Xavier Becerra joined President Biden’s Cupboard because the secretary of Well being and Human Providers in 2021, the identical 12 months Alex Padilla turned California’s first Latino U.S. senator — I held hope that 2022 would carry much more constructive milestones.
Oh, how unsuitable I used to be. It was an annus horribilis for Latino politicians in L.A.
L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva — who made historical past in 2018 by defeating an incumbent with the assistance of Latina luminaries like Molina and labor legend Dolores Huerta — turned a nationwide poster boy for every thing unsuitable with legislation enforcement and suffered a humiliating loss to challenger Robert Luna. Cedillo, a Chicano warrior if ever there was one, misplaced his reelection within the June major to a political novice, Eunisses Hernandez. Extra embarrassing revelations got here out about Huizar, who awaits trial.
After which there was the secretly recorded 2021 dialog between Cedillo, De León, then-L.A. Metropolis Council President Nury Martinez and then-L.A. County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera that leaked this fall. Their cackling machinations to maintain their seats and punish opponents, all whereas insulting Black folks, Oaxacans and others, made the very thought of Latino political energy a four-letter phrase.
Since then, they’ve solely made issues worse. Martinez, the primary Latina to develop into L.A. Metropolis Council president, ended her resignation letter with a tone-deaf shout-out “to all little Latina ladies throughout this metropolis,” hoping that “I’ve impressed you to dream past that which you’ll see.” Cedillo completed his time period this month along with his personal defiant assertion slamming critics for allegedly training cancel tradition “at its worst” and tauntingly concluding with, “This child from Boyle Heights by no means resigned.” De León continues to disregard calls to step down, arguing that solely somebody like him might help his principally Latino constituents.
They, together with Huizar and Villanueva, did what bigots lengthy claimed would occur if Latinos ever obtained the keys to energy: They’d screw up vastly. Now, probably the most loathed politicians in Los Angeles are Latinos — and the hate in opposition to them is warranted.
With embarrassments like them, who wants Latino politicians?
That’s the speck of hope within the dumpster hearth that was 2022. In an period wherein id politics appears to control the poll field greater than ever, this 12 months ought to function a reminder that the most effective individual to signify you generally isn’t going to appear like you.
And generally, the worst individual to signify you appears to be like identical to you.
Latino illustration in authorities is essential, particularly in a metropolis and county that’s practically 50% Latino, in a state the place Latinos are the most important ethnic group. However Martinez, Cedillo and the remaining additionally show the boundaries of ethnic politics.
Examples of politicians garnering help from teams they don’t belong to aren’t too distant. Latino and Jewish voters famously joined Black voters to elect Tom Bradley as mayor. Generations of Black residents in South L.A. have voted for a trio of Hahns to signify them — Kenneth as an L.A. County supervisor and his kids Jim and Janice as mayor and supervisor, respectively. Progressive whites propelled the campaigns of newly elected Councilmembers Hernandez and Hugo Soto-Martinez alongside the Latinos who make up the vast majority of the districts they now signify.
In my hometown of Anaheim, the most effective Latino politician we had was a white Republican, Tom Tait. As mayor from 2010 to 2018, Tait labored with neighborhood activists to make life higher for Latinos. He supported a lawsuit that fought for district elections to diversify the make-up of the Metropolis Council and in addition stood up in opposition to company giants like Disney and the Angels that lengthy had an excessive amount of affect on metropolis politics.
I hope the most recent batch of elected L.A. Latinos — Sheriff Luna, Metropolis Atty. Hydee Feldstein Soto and Councilmembers Soto-Martinez and Hernandez, among the many most outstanding — doesn’t imagine their very own hype and governs with humility as an alternative of hubris.
As 2023 looms, I’m reminded of the outdated saying about by no means assembly your heroes. In the case of Latino politicians, I’d go additional. By no means lionize them. They’re simply politicians — no extra, no much less.