By Vince Echavaria
and Gary Walker
After years of serving as a chief deputy to Los Angeles City Council members, Mike Bonin won his own seat on the council March 5, avoiding a runoff with a convincing victory in the primary.
Bonin, the chief of staff to Councilman Bill Rosendahl, won his bid for his boss’ 11th District seat by tallying 17,566 votes, or 61.2 percent of the vote, with 100 percent of precincts reporting. Rosendahl chose not to seek reelection to a third term to focus on his battle with cancer.
Bonin’s closest competitor in the race for the coastal district, which includes communities such as Venice, Westchester and Playa del Rey, was city prosecutor Tina Hess, who received 5,155 votes, or nearly 18 percent. Two other candidates, community advocate Frederick Sutton and teacher Odysseus Bostick, finished with 3,343 and 2,639 votes, respectively, according to unofficial results.
With his significant margin of victory, Bonin, who previously served as deputy chief of staff to former Councilwoman Ruth Galanter and chief of staff to former Rep. Jane Harman, avoided a potential runoff election in May.
“I feel overwhelmingly grateful by the victory and tremendously humbled by the margin of victory,” Bonin said the day after the election.
Bonin said he was hopeful, but did not expect to avoid the runoff, noting that surpassing 50 percent of votes is particularly challenging with four names on the ballot, all of whom were first time candidates.
Election results show that slightly more than 16 percent of registered city voters went to the polls. Bonin, who received the most votes among City Council candidates, said that despite the low turnout, the 11th District had the highest number of voters.
When Rosendahl announced that he would not enter the race, he immediately tapped Bonin, who has served as the councilman’s chief of staff throughout his eight years in office, as his preferred successor. Bonin won the support of numerous elected officials and community groups in his first campaign for council.
“I’m just delighted. Mike is a fantastic guy and I’ve had the pleasure of having him around me for nine years,” Rosendahl said. “It’s certainly satisfying for me to know that I believe in him and a lot of people who believe in me believed in him.” Bonin says that as the next councilman, he hopes to incorporate skills from each of the legislators with whom he has worked and like his current boss, to become an accessible public figure. As he prepares to take office July 1, Bonin will work on transitioning his team while helping Rosendahl complete his agenda and recognizing the service the councilman has brought to the community.
“I really wanted to run a positive, optimistic campaign, to talk about real issues and solutions. I wanted a really smart, disciplined organization that empowered people and invited people in, and I’m really happy we were able to do that,” Bonin said.
In the race for the next mayor, former City Council President Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel are headed to a May runoff after garnering 32.9 percent and 29.2 percent of votes, respectively.
The race for city attorney is also headed to a runoff, as former Assemblyman Mike Feuer received 43.8 percent of votes to 30.2 percent for City Attorney Carmen Trutanich.
LAUSD District 4 election
Despite an avalanche of outside money and a barrage of negative attacks on radio and television, Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member Steven Zimmer was returned to office by the voters of District 4 on election night, March 5.
Zimmer, a teacher and counselor for 17 years, withstood a late challenge by parent advocate Kate Anderson to hold onto his seat, beating Anderson with 52.1 percent of the vote to 47.9 in a race that had national implications.
Billionaires Eli Broad, A. Jerrold Perenchio and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg poured millions of dollars into an independent expenditure to help fund Anderson, a Mar Vista homeowner who is on the Mar Vista Community Council.
Perenchio and Broad are the primary funders of the Coalition for School Reform, an organization that is very supportive of LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy and the charter school movement. At the behest of outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Bloomberg, an unabashed backer of charters, contributed $1 million to the independent expenditure in an effort to get Anderson elected.
United Teachers Los Angeles, which donated heavily to Zimmer’s campaign, addressed the influx of outside money in the school board race.
“UTLA is pleased that veteran teacher Steve Zimmer appears to have retained his seat on LAUSD’s Board of Education,” the union said in a statement.
“Voters were not swayed by outsiders and their millions. School board seats are not for sale. Zimmer has been a champion of students and an important voice on the school board.”
Anderson conceded early March 6.
“I lost the election last night. But this defeat is just a setback for a movement and a community that is and always has been larger than this campaign,” she wrote in an email to Zimmer’s campaign.
“I want to congratulate Steve and wish him well in the four years ahead. He puts his heart and soul into this work.”
The challenger said she will continue her work with a statewide nonprofit education organization, Children Now, where she is the regional director. “I look forward to continuing to be part of the change in education that inspired me to run (for the school board),” Anderson said.
Zimmer, whose district includes schools in Mar Vista, Venice, Del Rey and Westchester, did not return calls for comment on the election.
Zimmer’s victory represents a setback to an ethos that has sprouted on the Westside in recent years around the proliferation of charter schools as an improvement on what many charter advocates call “failing” LAUSD neighborhood schools.