Longtime council aide John Lee took an early, narrow lead in Tuesday’s special election to fill the northwestern San Fernando Valley’s District 12 seat on the Los Angeles City Council.
Lee, who was the chief of staff for then-City Councilman Mitch Englander, has 50.79% of the vote to 49.21% for Loraine Lundquist, an astrophysicist and longtime “social justice” activist, with three of 57 precincts reporting and vote-by-mail ballots counted, according to figures released by Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.
“Anything can happen, but this is a great start,” Lee told the Daily News.
Lundquist backs the city’s Green New Deal, which calls for strong efforts to address climate change and environmental interests.
Lee is looking to become the second aide in the 12th Council District to ascend to council member. He was the chief of staff for then-City Councilman Mitch Englander, who was previously the chief of staff for then-Councilman Greig Smith.
Englander resigned last year to take a job in the private sector, and Smith has been filling the council seat on a temporary basis pending Tuesday’s election.
The city’s Green New Deal is a localized version of the much-debated national proposal aimed at addressing climate change. It sets a goal of powering the city completely emission-free by 2050 through various outreach and community projects, as well as adding restrictions on non-renewable energy. Among its ambitious goals is having one-quarter of the city’s drivers using electric vehicles by 2025.
Lee, while recognizing the effects of climate change, has questioned aspects of the Green New Deal, suggesting it is overly ambitious and would threaten good local jobs. He has also said a push to rapidly reduce emissions would involve major costs for taxpayers.
Lundquist has dismissed such claims as indicative of Lee’s support from the union representing Los Angeles Department of Water and Power workers, which has been critical of the Green New Deal. She said transitioning to clean energy will create many more jobs than it eliminates.
Both candidates have put forth ideas for addressing homelessness and pointed to their past work on the issue.
Lundquist has been the co-chair of the homelessness committee of Northridge East Neighborhood Council and a founding member of the West Valley Neighborhood Alliance on Homelessness. She said she backs creating more permanent supportive housing to help reduce the number of people on the streets.
According to his website, Lee has volunteered for a variety of charities in his district. One of his goals is to not just get the homeless population off the streets but to help them find employment. He also wants to establish more neighborhood security teams and create a “more effective” intervention system to help families on the brink of losing their home.
As of Monday, Lee’s campaign had out-spent Lundquist by about $196,000.
Although the race is nonpartisan, District 12 — which includes Chatsworth, Northridge, Porter Ranch, Granada Hills and West Hills — has traditionally leaned Republican. Lee is a Republican. Lundquist is a Democrat.
However, the district’s political bent may have been affected by the massive leak at the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Facility in Porter Ranch that forced thousands of residents from their homes and has prompted sustained calls for its immediate closure. Both Lee and Lundquist have called for its closure.
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