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LA Council member caught in racist recording announces reelection bid

LA Council member caught in racist recording announces reelection bid

Shunned by most of the Democratic establishment, Kevin de León has ensconced himself into the neighborhoods of his eastside Los Angeles district. | Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

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LOS ANGELES — Kevin de León, the Los Angeles City Council member who became politically radioactive after a leaked audio scandal, is running for reelection — a brash bet that voters will salvage his once-ascendant career. His Wednesday announcement, first reported here, settles the speculation that has consumed Los Angeles politics for nearly a year: whether De León would appear again on a ballot after a chorus of calls for his resignation last fall, including from President Joe Biden. The taped backroom conversation — rife with disparaging and racist language — exposed deep fissures in the city along ethnic and ideological lines, and piled on fresh embarrassment to a City Council already decimated by ethics scandals. As the only participant still in office, De León has been the most visible emblem of an ugly chapter in the city’s history. Now, he is counting on voters to bring him back from the political wilderness. “When a lot of people that I called my friends and allies turned away from me, my constituents had my back,” De León said in an interview. “I understood in a deeper way the relationship that I had with my community and how that motivates and drives me. That’s why I’m still here. And that’s why I’m running.” The contenders seeking to replace De León, including two former colleagues in the state Legislature, insist the city needs new blood on the council to fully move on. They say voters want nothing to do with the embattled Democrat, not to mention fellow council members and major political players like organized labor. But De León is staying put as he tests the limits of the modern-day scandal survival playbook: outwait your loudest opposition, win over voters with meat-and-potatoes constituent work and dilute the opposition with a crowded field of challengers. Shunned by most of the Democratic establishment, De León has ensconced himself into the neighborhoods of his eastside Los Angeles district — cutting ribbons for new playground equipment, giving away free food boxes, sampling aguas frescas and a spicy tuna “sushi burger” at a local street food fair. He has few advantages in this race, but as an incumbent, he has plenty of chances to meet with voters, one by one.

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