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Column: Who’s the ‘True’ Democrat in CD-11?

So who is the true Democrat in this race to succeed Mike Bonin in CD-11?

While the campaign for city council is officially a non-partisan affair, both Erin Darling and Traci Park have promoted their Democratic endorsements and credentials in a district where being a registered Democrat is almost tantamount in one of the country’s most liberal and progressive municipalities.

Both are lawyers who live in Venice, Darling proudly proclaims he is “born and bred” and a life-long Venetian who surfs the local beaches and played Little League Baseball here in the community as a kid and attended local schools where he played varsity baseball and soccer in high school. Darling is married with a three-year old son and plans to stay here and raise his family in Dog Town.

Park conversely describes herself as a “third generation Angeleno,” a municipal attorney who in a recent mailing promoted the endorsements of several prominent Democrats such as California Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, former California Treasurer John Chiang and his successor Fiona Ma, outgoing LA City Controller Ron Galperin, LA Community College board member Andra Hoffman, LA Councilmember Monica Rodriguez, LA Community College President Gabriel Buelna, Santa Monica Councilmember Phil Brock and LA City Councilmember Joe Buscaino of San Pedro.

But upon closer inspection, most if not all do not reside in CD-11 and Brock doesn’t live in Los Angeles, but Santa Monica. Park also picked up the endorsements of former CD-11 council candidates Mike Newhouse, Mat Smith and VNC President James Murez. And of the three, only Newhouse is an active LA Democrat as Mat Smith is a conservative Republican and Murez is generally regarded as a Venice community activist not engaged in party or partisan politics.

The two prized endorsements in Greg Good, who finished third in the June Primary and Allison Holdorff-Polhill who finished fourth have not endorsed anyone and both are very active Democrats with long standing relationships within party circles. Good has worked for outgoing Mayor Eric Garcetti and Holdorff-Polhill for LAUSD school board member Nick Melvoin, a former Obama Administration official.

Neither are expected to select Darling or Park.

In contrast, candidate Darling who was once a Green Party member and the obvious progressive in the race has received just about every major endorsement of Democrats, the county apparatus, as well as twenty (20) other clubs and organizations affiliated with the Democratic Party of Los Angeles County.

Darling has received the endorsements of the LA County Young Democrats, the Stonewall Democrats, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, the Black Young Democrats of Los Angeles, Asian Democrats, Westchester/Playa Del Rey Democrats, the Culver City Democrats, Muslim Democratic Club of Southern California; Democrats for Israel; Westside Young Democrats, Miracle Mile Democrats and the West LA Democrats which a bulk of its membership resides in District 11 and claims Mike Bonin as a longtime member.

More importantly, Darling has received significant Democratic support from elected officials that represent Venice at the local, county and state levels including Mike Bonin, LA County Supervisors Sheila Kuehl, Holly Mitchell and Hilda Solis, State Senator Ben Allen and Assembly member Tina McKinnor. Darling has received the endorsement of three of the five supervisors as well as retired LA City Council member Ruth Galanter who represented Venice and was responsible for the transformation of the historic Venice Canals. Darling also picked up the endorsement of northern California US Representative Ro Khanna on Friday.

In the final days of this contentious campaign that spoke to the racial scandal downtown that forced Traci Park to rescind the endorsements of former LA Council President Nury Martinez and outgoing member Gil Cedillo who were heard on leaked taped conversations speaking in offensive racial overtones, it was revealed by the Darling campaign that Park defended the use of the “n-word” in litigation on behalf of the City of Anaheim and according to the LA Times, Park was attributed to saying “not every utterance of a racial slur in the workplace violates” discrimination laws.

In response, Park attacked Darling for representing a rapist, two pedophiles and a couple who ran a prostitution ring in his role as a public defender in a mailing that arrived just days after the racial scandal rocked Los Angeles to the core.

LA Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson who supports Darling stated, “If you go to court and defend racism…you have forfeited your leadership. It disqualifies her from holding office in LA.” regarding her defense of the City of Anaheim in her role as their attorney.

And while both candidates have piled up a significant number of private sector and public sector labor endorsements, Darling has proclaimed he is not only the overwhelming choice of Democrats, but labor as well.

In the case of Park, her union help is coming predominantly from public safety collective bargaining units as well as private sector unions that represent the building trades, electrical workers and plumbers, pipefitters and welders.

Park, who is a former Republican and has received financial support from 2002 GOP gubernatorial hopeful Bill Simon in this campaign is considered a right-of-center populist and Darling views Park as the most conservative candidate on the ballot in Los Angeles in this election cycle.

In response, Park views herself as the moderate according to the Los Angeles Times.

In fact some Park supporters see Darling as too liberal, and in fact branded him a socialist claiming he was endorsed by the DSA, but did not make an endorsement in CD-11.

Cara Robin, longtime President of the West LA Democrats and a supporter of Darling’s was asked if she ever met Park before she became a candidate for council, or was she a member of her club and had she ever participated with the organization in any fashion replied, “No, no and no.”

And while one can say they are both registered Democrats, the depth of that affiliation in policy, philosophy and politics will certainly play a role in who is victorious come November 8th.

Nick Antonicello is a longtime Venetian who is covering the race for city council to succeed Mike Bonin and how it will impact the neighborhood of Venice. Have a take or a tip on the race? Contact Antonicello at nantoni@mindspring.com

in Opinion
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