Mark Ridley-Thomas sweeps L.A. District 10 race

After a long race between Mark Ridley-Thomas and Grace Yoo, the city councilman took home the district seat prize.

City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas won the contentious seat for Los Angeles' District 10 after 15 years of Councilman Herb Wesson.

Ridley-Thomas said he is “tremendously heartened” about his victory and will “go to work and deliver on the commitments that I’ve made to work on my priority issue, namely homelessness, and to not allow it to take a back seat to any other policy agenda.”

Ridley-Thomas won the District 10 seat with a majority vote of 61.26%, with candidate Grace Yoo trailing behind with 38.74% of the vote.

District 10 comprises Chinatown, South L.A., neighborhoods of Harvard Heights, Leimert Park, Arlington Heights and West Adams, as well as parts of Koreatown, Mid-City and Wilshire Center. So far, the race has been close for the two candidates.

After 15 years, District 10′s seat for L.A. City Council is up for grabs in the 2020 election.

District 10 comprises Chinatown, South L.A., neighborhoods of Harvard Heights, Leimert Park, Arlington Heights and West Adams, as well as parts of Koreatown, Mid-City and Wilshire Center. So far, the race has been close for the two candidates.

Mark Ridley-Thomas, a current member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in his final term, has previously represented District 2 in California. During his career in politics, Ridley-Thomas served as a State Legislator and most recently as a three-term Los Angeles County Supervisor.

Ridley-Thomas is known for his work on the homelessness crisis, who claims the issue as his main philanthropic mission. Ridley-Thomas helped to pass Measure H, an initiative aimed to tackle the homelessness crisis by raising $3.5 billion for homelessness services over a period of 10 years.

During the campaign trail, Ridley-Thomas said the primary issues he will focus on are the homelessness crisis and police reform. In a recent forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Ridley-Thomas said the public needs “to respect law enforcement, but law enforcement needs to respect the people they serve,” with “accountability, accountability, accountability.” He also emphasized the need for an anti-racist local government.

On the other side of the campaign trail is Grace Yoo, a real-estate attorney and first-generation immigrant who has lived in L.A. her whole life. While serving as the Executive Director of the National Pacific American Bar Association, Yoo’s website claims the candidate “expanded language access initiatives, solidified the Voting Rights Act, and diversified the bench with more lawyers from different ethnicities, religions, and gender identities.”. This is not Yoo’s first race, as she unsuccessfully ran for the same position in 2014. From 2017-19, Yoo served as an Elected E-Board member for Assembly District 53, California Democratic Party.

Yoo prides herself on her civic engagement background. Similar to her counterpart, Yoo also said she believes that the crucial issues are homelessness, affordable housing, public safety, fighting against corruption in city government, and lofty reform of the LAPD.

LA county local, and freshman USC student, Jordyn Holt, agrees with the candidates on, “homelessness, better security around the area, and obviously an antiracist government”, but believes there is still more to address: “I think environmental support, fighting for justice for the BIPOC community, support for healthcare for all, and ensuring resources for women and women-presenting people are important”.

At the beginning of October, tension arose between the two candidates when Yoo’s campaign launched, a smear campaign on Ridley-Thomas’s reputation. Among the many “scandals” pointed out on the site, Yoo’s campaign suggests that Ridley-Thomas intends on using the contested seat as a stepping stone to a future mayoral run. She also suggests that Ridley-Thomas’s Measure H, which ended quickly and did not significantly decrease homelessness

Perhaps the most potent of the scandals is Ridley-Thomas’s “USC scandal.” In 2018, Ridley-Thomas made a donation of $100,000 to the University of Southern California. That same year, his son Sebastian Ridley-Thomas was hired by a USC psychology professor, and given a large scholarship to attend USC’s graduate school. Since then, Sebastian has been fired over sexual harassment claims, and an investigation is ongoing over a possible bribery scandal.

Since the website was published, Mark Ridley-Thomas and his lawyers have issued a cease-and-desist letter to Yoo’s campaign. Stephen J. Kaufman, Thomas’s lawyer, claims in a recent letter posted on his website: “You have intentionally prevented our client from registering a website domain name in his own personal name.” Yoo’s campaign responded by claiming the domain was free when they first registered the website, and therefore have the right to own this website. As of now, the website is currently still online.

Yoo’s campaign isn’t the only side to attack its competitor. Also toward the beginning of October, Ridley-Thomas' campaign accused Yoo of distributing door hangers, lawn signs and digital advertisements in late September, before reporting them to the city. This failure to report early is a violation, according to the Fair Elections Commission. In defense, Yoo said these election materials were leftover from the primary race in March.