Two weeks after the FBI conducted searches of her home and two of her husband’s offices, Richelle Huizar, wife of City Councilman Jose Huizar, announced Wednesday that she is withdrawing from the race to fill her husband’s seat in 2020.
Richelle Huizar only publicly announced her intention to run for her husband’s seat in September, but that was before two lawsuits were filed by two former staffers of Jose Huizar’s in October and before the FBI searches occurred on Nov. 7.
“Today, I am announcing my withdrawal as a candidate for City Council in order to focus on my family,” she wrote in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. “I am eternally grateful for the support that I have received since announcing our campaign in September. I look forward to continuing to work on issues I’m passionate about and staying involved in improving our communities.”
On Tuesday, Jose Huizar returned to his first City Council meeting since the searches, but he declined to answer any inquiries from reporters, only repeating variations of “I’m here to work” in response to a number of questions. He was not present at Wednesday’s meeting.
No arrests have resulted from the searches, which occurred at Jose Huizar’s City Hall office, a Boyle Heights field office and the Huizars’ Boyle Heights home. The FBI has not commented on what the purpose of the searches was, but agents did seize a large amount of boxes and bags of potential evidence.
Last week, Jose Huizar was stripped of all of his committee assignments by City Council President Herb Wesson.
“We’re optimistic Angelenos will be best served by these changes as the Los Angeles City Council continues the people’s work without interruption,” Wesson spokeswoman Vanessa Rodriguez told City News Service about the move, offering no further comment.
Jose Huizar was recently targeted in two lawsuits filed by two former employees, both of whom accused him of ethics violations and other misdeeds, although it is unknown if the FBI searches are related to the lawsuits.
One of the complaints was filed in October by Mayra Alvarez, who was Huizar’s executive assistant and scheduler for about three years. In her suit, Alvarez, who contends that she left in July because she was demoted after returning from maternity leave, accuses Huizar of doctoring his schedule to hide certain meetings from the media, along with other ethics violations, including that his staff was pressured to plan Richelle Huizar’s campaign on city time.
The councilman has denied the claims in both lawsuits.
“It is nothing more than a hit piece orchestrated by political operatives who seek to undermine all the good work I’ve accomplished on behalf of my constituents,” Huizar said in a statement about Alvarez’s lawsuit after it was filed. “I find it suspicious that these claims have surfaced now when my wife has announced her candidacy for my seat. This further supports that this is politics at its worst.”
Jose Huizar has served on the City Council since 2005 representing the 14th District and is prevented by term limits from running again.
Richelle Huizar had served on the Los Angeles Commission on the Status of Women since 2017, but resigned on Oct. 30, and previously served as both a policy director and later as the assistant executive director of the Commission for Children, Youth and Their Families.
It has been common practice for some time for city commissioners to resign if they announce they are seeking elected office, and Derek Humphrey, a political consultant who helped launch Richelle Huizar’s campaign, wrote in an email to City News Service that “the resignation was in order to comply with a policy laid out by the mayor’s office related to commissioners who declare as candidates for office.” Garcetti’s office would not confirm this or comment on Richelle Huizar’s resignation.
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