Imelda Padilla appeared to be on track to claim victory in the special election to replace former Councilmember Nury Martinez on the Los Angeles City Council, based on semifinal results issued by the county registrar’s office.
Padilla’s lead over her rival, Marisa Alcaraz, was more than 13 percentage points when the initial set of election results trickled in on Tuesday, June 27 – a lead that remained virtually unchanged by night’s end when semifinal results were released. Padilla had 6,684 votes (56.7%) while Alcaraz had 5,096 votes (43.3%). The registrar’s office will post further results on Friday.
On Wednesday, June 28, the registrar’s office estimated that 3,280 ballots were left to count, but officials expect that number to increase as more vote-by-mail ballots are returned to its office over the next few days. Ballots postmarked by election day and received by the registrar by Wednesday, July 5, will be counted.
Padilla had not declared victory as of Wednesday afternoon, nor had Alcaraz conceded. But given Padilla’s sizable lead, Fernando Guerra, director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University, was ready to call the race for her.
“The race is over. … (Alcaraz) would have to win like 85% of the remaining votes. That’s not going to happen,” Guerra said. “You can call Padilla the projected winner.”
Voter data analyst Paul Mitchell, vice president of the firm Political Data Inc., said that if about 3,280 ballots remain to be counted, three-quarters of the outstanding votes would have to go to Alcaraz to give her a chance to win.
“That’s not going to happen. It would have to break so wildly the other way. It’s not conceivable,” Mitchell said.
Despite the odds in her favor, Padilla refrained from declaring victory on Wednesday. Instead, Padilla, who’s worked as a community organizer, said in a statement that she was “incredibly happy and humbled” by the results so far.
“While there are still more ballots to count to finalize results, I am thankful for the love, trust and support that I have received from the voters in the 6th Council District,” she stated.
“I look forward to the next vote count update this Friday with a renewed sense of optimism for our communities in CD6 so that we can work together to ensure that our families’ needs are addressed and their voices are heard within City Hall,” she continued. “The work starts now.”
Alcaraz, a top aide to Councilmember Curren Price, had not issued any statement as of Wednesday afternoon. But in an interview on election night before results started trickling in, the veteran City Hall employee said that win or lose, she intends to remain a public servant in some fashion.
She also addressed the charges filed against her boss two weeks before the election. The county District Attorney’s Office has charged Price with multiple counts of embezzlement, perjury and conflict of interest, though the councilmember says he is innocent.
Alcaraz said Tuesday that the latest City Hall scandal did not come up in her conversations with voters for the most part.
“Most people I talked to talked to me about me – me as a candidate, as a separate person, what I’m going to do for Council District 6 and what I bring to the table,” she said.
“Both my opponent and I have worked in different (councilmembers’) offices so I think the voters were more focused on the individual candidates and not necessarily who we worked for,” she continued, adding, “I’m Marisa. I’m not Curren.”
Padilla spent 18 months working for former Councilmember Martinez a decade ago, long before the scandal that led to Martinez’s resignation.
Martinez resigned last fall after she was caught making racist comments in a secretly recorded conversation with two other current or former councilmembers and a labor leader. Padilla has condemned her former boss’ comments.
As for the timing of the charges filed against Alcaraz’s boss, Guerra said he did not think it hurt her campaign in a meaningful way.
“Did it change some votes? Probably. Did it change enough votes to make a difference? Absolutely not,” he said.
The winner of the special election will finish out Martinez’s term, which ends in December 2024, and give the residents of Council District 6 a voting representative on the council for the first time since October.
District 6 represents central and eastern parts of the San Fernando Valley. This includes residents in Arleta, Lake Balboa, North Hills, North Hollywood, Panorama City, Sun Valley and Van Nuys.
The winner of this election will also become the seventh woman on the 15-member City Council – the most ever the council has had serving at the same time.