The Los Angeles political landscape has been shaken up following a leaked audio file containing racist remarks. Nury Martinez resigned as president of the L.A. City Council on Monday, and announced a leave of absence from the council on Tuesday. Ron Herrera stepped down from his role as a top labor leader.
The tape —involving Martinez as well as council members Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo— received national attention. Most recently, President Biden even called for the council members’ resignations. Locally, dozens of protesters gathered outside the city council meeting on Tuesday morning.
“It really could go either way. And that’s a hard part because there is such corruption in city hall,” said Adam Linder, a protester outside of the council meeting about the upcoming midterm elections. “Progressive movements are coming together and fighting against this hateful rhetoric. I would like to hope that shining a light on it would bring people towards a positive movement, as opposed to moving backward and voting for someone like Caruso.”
Protesters screamed chants such as, “I’m with the Blacks,” and demanded resignation from all council members included in the tapes.
With the local election only weeks away, this publicity could garner momentum for mayoral candidates Karen Bass and Rick Caruso as they make their final push for the seat.
Bass was endorsed by Martinez in August, but has already released a statement condemning the council member’s racist comments. However, Bass’s connection to Martinez received criticism in a statement released by candidate Rick Caruso.
“The entire situation shows that city hall is fundamentally broken and dysfunctional,” Caruso said in the statement. “Most of the people involved in this ugly episode have endorsed Karen Bass ... I hope she’ll do the right thing and demand for their accountability and renounce the endorsement of those who used hate speech.”
When it came to discussions of the mayoral candidates, opinions among protestors varied.
“Because of this institutional racism, it illustrates the need to find a candidate that is above that and is ethical,” said protester Erik Laykin. “Hopefully, [it is] somebody who is not in it for the power and the money or the prestige, but is in it for the right reasons.”
Some protestors discussed the hope for greater voter turnout.
“This is ridiculous. I think that these three individuals got really comfortable,” said Haydee Burrola, one of the protestors. “I think that hopefully, it will bring more youth out to the polls to vote, but also it’s going to mobilize everybody to hold our leaders accountable.”
Ultimately, sentiment following the tapes emphasized that it’s up to the voters to decide the outcome of the elections.
“Rick Caruso has been portraying himself as the outsider who can clean up corrupt L.A. city governments,” said Kamy Akhavan, the executive director of USC’s Center of the Political Future. “Karen Bass has portrayed herself as a bridge builder…she could also be well positioned to benefit from these scandals. So, it depends on who plays their cards best before November 8.”
For more information on where and when to cast midterm ballots, visit the USC Votes website.