Was ‘masterful’ political strategy key to de León surviving recall?

Written by Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Angie Perrin

LA City Hall is seen on a cloudy day. Photo by Amy Ta/KCRW

LA City Councilmember Kevin de León has survived a recall attempt, fueled by racist remarks caught in leaked audio last fall. The footage included fellow Councilmembers Gil Cedillo, who lost his re-election bid, and Nury Martinez, who resigned. In its aftermath, De León refused to step down and now will likely remain in office until the end of his term In December 2024. 

Not even six months ago, it appeared unlikely that de León would finish his term, says LA Times Metro Reporter Julia Wick. Calls for the politician’s resignation went as high up as President Joe Biden, but he made it very clear he wouldn’t step down on his own accord. 

The recall attempt started with fringe activist Pauline Adkins, as Wick describes, who had unsuccessfully tried to recall de León before. 

“The thing about a recall is you really need about 25,000 signatures, including a cushion for invalid ones, to succeed in that district. And so that's a huge amount of effort. It's either an army of volunteers, or it's really, really expensive to hire people to go out and gather their signatures,” Wick says.

She adds that de León’s approach to navigating negative press may one day be seen as a masterful political strategy. 

“Like him or not, he has managed to get through this in a pretty strategic way. …  He has been a constant presence in his district. He's posting raffles at senior centers, he's giving out food boxes, which, by the way, come with his picture and name on them,” Wick says. “He's constantly documenting everything he's doing for constituents on social media. He's also someone who had pretty deep support in that district before all of this. So I think he's really just focusing on his district and not on the broader political attitudes towards him.”

Wick says it's unclear whether he’ll run for office again, and de León has not filed for reelection yet. 

Meanwhile, the election to replace council president Nury Martinez is Tuesday. 

Wick says the three frontrunners in the City Council District 6 election are Marisa Alcaraz, Imelda Padilla, and Marco Santana. All three have nabbed an endorsement from a current council member and have raised significant amounts of money. Wicks predicts there will be a runoff election. 



  • Julia Wick - political reporter for the Los Angeles Times


Marisa Lagos