LOS ANGELES (CN) – Democrats in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles saw their hopes to flip a City Council seat dashed late Tuesday, as John Lee fended off California State University professor Loraine Lundquist to keep the seat in a Republican’s hands.
The technically nonpartisan runoff election filled the seat for District 12 – which covers northern county cities including Northridge, Granada Hills and Porter Ranch – vacated by former Councilman Mitch Englander, a Republican who left his post to take a job with a sports entertainment firm.
Greig Smith, a Republican who represented the district from 2003 to 2011 and was appointed as interim councilman, did not take part in Tuesday’s election.
Voter turnout was low – just over 32,000 people cast votes in a district with nearly 170,000 registered voters. In the end, Lee beat Lundquist 52% to 48%, with 1,329 separating the candidates.
Lundquist, a Cal State LA physicist and climate change researcher, campaigned on a promise to implement LA’s Green New Deal, an initiative that would mirror the proposed federal program to curb carbon emissions and create jobs in the clean energy industry.
Lundquist, who also proposed building permanent housing for the city’s homeless residents, squared off against Lee, Englander’s former chief of staff.
Lee, a Republican who on his website calls himself “a product of the American Dream,” has said increased policing of the homeless is needed to address what he believes is an increase in criminal activity.
While Lee acknowledged the effects of climate change, he has said the city’s Green New Deal would threaten some local jobs and raise costs for taxpayers.
Both candidates spoke about high housing costs, though Lee said at a candidate forum that city programs to provide legal aid and other support for struggling tenants has led to a reduction of quality and frequency of core services.
Lundquist said at the forum that supporting struggling renters would be less expensive for the city than paying for services once people become homeless.
After none of the 15 candidates vying to fill the seat earned more than 50% of the vote in June, Lundquist and Lee emerged as the top two vote-getters to face off in Tuesday’s runoff election.