Los Angeles City Council District 9 is the poorest region in Los Angeles. It runs from USC on Figueroa out eastward to Alameda, just east of Maple Ave. According to the latest census numbers, over the last ten years as downtown Los Angeles has undergone a revision of sorts (LA Live, Staple Center, etc.), CD9 has simultaneously become more disenfranchised. Nearly a third of its residents live below the poverty level in an area that is now two-thirds Latino.
The outgoing representative of CD9 is Jan Perry. Her record includes several campaign achievements but they are counteracted by the large amount of resources (money) she redirected to the downtown area in exchange for campaign support. Under her watch, the southern section of CD9 received virtually no funding or attention. Perry is also is an avowed and demonstrated career politician. She is running for mayor of Los Angeles in 2013.
This year's race for Jan Perry's available council seat includes a who's who of Los Angeles power players. There is Ana Cubas, a former staff member to councilman Jose Huizar who left her position earlier in 2012. There is current State Senator Curren Price and State Assembly member Mike Davis, who recently moved within the district to be eligible to run in CD9. There is also LAPD hawk Terry Hara, whose interest in the council seat has waned since redistricting cut out his area of Little Tokyo.
What will make the race particularly interesting, however, is the candidacy of Ron Gochez. In a race full of career politicians who see this available council seat as another steppingstone on their political ladder, Mr. Gochez is proposing something entirely different.
Gochez has lived and worked as a high school history teacher in CD9 for the last eight years. He is a longtime community activist who has won several well-known campaigns centered on police brutality, immigrant rights, educational justice, and fair living wages. As head of the Southern California Immigration Coalition (SCIC) for instance, their campaign against the arbitrary seizure of vehicles belonging to undocumented individuals by the LAPD led the department to reconsider their tactics.
Ron Gochez aims to bring issues to light that rarely get touched on by other traditional city politicians. As current vice president of the South Central Neighborhood Council, Gochez recognizes the real-world problems that his community faces. Issues such as fair living wages, access to social services and public spaces, and community engagement are central to the Gochez campaign. According to Gochez, the candidates running for Perry's available seat don't really have the interests of CD9 at heart, "The other candidates have never lived in the district and only moved here to be able to run for this council seat. I think I have an advantage because the people here know me. I can honestly call this place home"
So what are the chances of an unheralded candidate winning an L.A. council seat? Gochez thinks they are good, "We are much more than just electoral politics. We are about creating a social movement to change the conditions of South Los Angeles, so win or lose our community should be better because of our campaign."
But his campaign does not see their candidacy as simply a symbolic move, "No, we are going to win. We think the conditions are there. People are absolutely tired of politicians coming in to their communities to ask for their vote and then completely turn their back when it comes time to really make some changes."
With the recent re-election of Barack Obama, communities across the country signaled they believe work still needs to be done from within. The candidacy of Ron Gochez symbolizes that work very well. As he says regarding CD9's future prospects, "These politicians don't represent the interests of the working-class people. They represent the interests of the elite, of the people with money."
Ivan completed his M.A. in Communication Studies from nearby Cal State Northridge. He is a scholar on intercultural communication and comparative global immigration. He is a teacher, journalist and author, lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. Author's website Email the author