LOS ANGELES — It’s rare for Councilman David Ryu to be out in public campaigning, but with less than a week before polls close, a pandemic won’t be the reason he loses his seat.
The first Korean-American elected to the Council won’t go out without a fight.
What You Need To Know
- Councilman David Ryu is defending his position from a challenger endorsed by Bernie Sanders
- This is the first time city elections coincide with a presidential election
- The Democrat Socialists of America's L.A. chapter is organizing and phone-banking for Nithya Raman
- Insiders say the race is a referendum on the City Council
"The next two to four years is going to be one of the most difficult times our city and nation is going to face," Ryu said as he addressed voters in Toluca Lake. "We need someone who has a track record, we need someone with the experience and we need someone who can hit the ground running."
His opponent, Nithya Raman, is endorsed by Bernie Sanders. Her message — amplified by celebrity supporters — caught fire in the March primary, as voters turning out to vote in the Democratic primary researched down-ballot races.
This is a historic election for a number of reasons. Locally, it’s the first time Los Angeles municipal elections fall on a presidential general election. The move — intended to increase voter turnout — promises to shatter records in District Four, where candidates have raised record money to reach a record number of voters.
Raman’s platform centers around an urgent need to transform the city’s approach to the homeless crisis.
“This kind of political life is not something I’d ever envisioned, but I was so deeply frustrated by what I saw as a real failure of our council to take action on the issues that matter to me,” she said.
Ryu has championed Bridge Housing projects and calls for a “FEMA-like response” to homelessness. Just five years ago, he was the outside from the left, as he reminded the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association during a recent debate.
"I was the David that slayed the mighty Goliath of City Hall," Ryu said.
But this time around, he is the incumbent in a race that’s become a referendum on the City Council.
The L.A. chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America is phone banking and organizing for Raman. Ryu calls the DSA-LA “divisive radicals” who have tweeted “Cops and klan go hand in hand” and call to abolish the police.
Ryu says he was most disturbed by a tweet from @NolympicsLA that shared his address.
“Members encourage that they’re going to come to my house," he said. "To do what? I don’t know. Rummage through my property? I fear for my life. I fear for my family."
In response to criticism from Ryu’s campaign, the DSA-LA accused the councilman of a “McCarthyist smear campaign.”
The group said in a statement, "Ryu’s current disparagement of DSA-LA is in stark contrast to the recent past where he partnered with DSA-LA, on such popular projects as opening the Rowena Reservoir as a park, and on Dr. Loraine Lundquist’s campaign against John Lee for LA City Council District 12. While benefiting from the partnership of DSA-LA, never once did David Ryu raise any objections to working with the organization."
Ryu says his criticism isn’t about policy, but about “who is trying to de-escalate violence and who is fanning the flames.”
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“I’ve been really disappointed by the number of lies and the negativity that’s been directed towards my campaign in the last few weeks,” Raman said at the Sherman Oaks debate.
“We’ve never encouraged any kind of personal attacks from our campaign,” she said in an interview with Spectrum News 1. “Our campaign has really been very policy focused. It’s led with compassion and love.”
Spending time with Raman, it’s easy to see the enthusiasm she’s generated. A person pulled over during the interview to express their support.
As for Ryu, he’s been endorsed by Hillary Clinton and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Political experts say the race is a bellwether for the future of the democratic party and the direction it’s headed when the historic election is over.