Top Two Candidates In LA Board Of Supervisors 2nd District Likely Headed For Runoff

Coming out of election night on March 3, 2020, Herb Wesson (L) and Holly Mitchell had the most votes in the 2nd district race for L.A. County Supervisor, though many ballots were left to be counted. (Annie Lesser for LAist)

A long-term Los Angeles City Council president and a state senator with a number of recent legislative wins appear to be headed for a runoff in the race for a seat on the powerful L.A. County Board of Supervisors.

As of 4:09 a.m. Wednesday, former L.A. City Council president Herb Wesson and state Senator Holly Mitchell were leading the race for the 2nd District. Wesson received just under 32% of the vote, and Mitchell stood at about 26%.

Wesson raised more money and won the endorsement of the L.A. County Democratic Party. But in the first batch of results on election night, Mitchell took a narrow lead.

"I'm cautiously optimistic," Mitchell said. "I want to see the final numbers, but this was a great way to start the night."

Later in the evening, Wesson pulled ahead of Mitchell slightly. He said he's ready to face her in November.

"It's gonna be a tight race," Wesson said. "We've got seven, eight months to go. We're right there with pathways to victory."

TOP CANDIDATES HAVE DEEP ROOTS IN THE DISTRICT

This is a job that directly impacts the lives of millions of Angelenos — even if the race hasn't received as much attention as other contests in this election.

Both candidates have represented communities in the 2nd District for years, and each have pointed to recent victories when arguing why they're best for the job.

Under Wesson's leadership, L.A. City Council put the city on the path to a $15 minimum wage and created a social equity program in the city's nascent cannabis industry for members of communities disproportionately harmed by the so-called war on drugs.

Senator Mitchell has been in the state Legislature since 2010. Last year she sponsored legislation banning landlords from turning away renters solely because they're using government-funded housing vouchers. She's also behind the law that made California the first state to ban discrimination against black people who wear natural hairstyles in schools and workplaces.

WHAT'S AT STAKE?

The position is one of only five seats on the county Board of Supervisors, who collectively oversee a $30 billion annual budget. That budget pays for everything from mental health treatment to homeless services, public health to law enforcement.

Like other supervisorial districts, the 2nd District is enormous. It stretches from Culver City to the USC campus and down to Carson, covering most of South L.A.. It's home to about 2 million people (larger than many U.S. states), and about half of L.A.'s black population.

The incumbent, Mark Ridley-Thomas, is termed out. He has served as a co-chair on the Governor's homelessness task force. Ridley-Thomas is now running for Wesson's current city council seat.

HOMELESSNESS: TOP ISSUE FOR VOTERS

About a third of L.A.'s homeless population lives in the 2nd District, and voters like Fanny Cruz say it's a top issue.

"It was noticeable before but now I don't think you can drive more than two blocks without seeing it," she said.

Cruz didn't vote for Wesson or Mitchell. The field was crowded with other candidates, and no one came close to cracking the 50% needed to win the seat outright.

Both Wesson and Mitchell have proposed putting more funding toward helping residents on the verge of homelessness, and toward developing more low-income housing.

Gentrification is another dominant issue in the 2nd District. Both candidates opposed SB-50, a state bill that would have allowed taller and denser buildings near transit. They argued such development could displace low-income communities of color.

WHO ARE THE OTHER CANDIDATES?

Other candidates in the race included Jake Jeong, who rallied community opposition to a homeless shelter in Koreatown, and Jan Perry, an L.A. city councilmember from 2001 to 2013.