Los Angeles Democrat city Councilmember Kevin de León, the former president pro tem of the California State Senate who was at the center of a racist audio scandal last year, announced his reelection campaign.
Last October, leaked audio from an October 2021 city council meeting shook up the council as it included racist remarks about the black child of former Councilman Mike Bonin.
The leaked conversation resulted in several resignations, including former city council president Nury Martinez (D). Martinez called Bonin’s black adopted son “ese changuito,” Spanish for “that little monkey.” She also claimed the child “needs a beatdown” because Bonin was “raising him like a little white kid.”
De León did not condemn Martinez’s remarks during the conversation, instead accusing Bonin of using his black son as a prop, similar to when Martinez “brings her Goyard bag or the Louis Vuitton bag.”
De León faced multiple calls to resign from the city council, including from President Joe Biden.
He, however, denied the calls to resign, instead offering his apologies at the time, saying he “fell short of the expectations we set for our leaders” and that he will hold himself “to a higher standard.”
“There were comments made in the context of this meeting that are wholly inappropriate; and I regret appearing to condone and even contribute to certain insensitive comments made about a colleague and his family in private. I’ve reached out to that colleague personally,” De León added.
Nearly one year later, he announced his reelection campaign. In an interview with Politico, he said his constituents supported him through the scandal.
“When a lot of people that I called my friends and allies turned away from me, my constituents had my back,” De León told Politico. “I understood in a deeper way the relationship that I had with my community and how that motivates and drives me. That’s why I’m still here. And that’s why I’m running.”
He told Politico the context of the leaked conversations was about “ensuring equal representation.”
As Politico detailed:
“The context of our conversation was about redistricting and ensuring equal representation,” he said. “You have to look no further than the maps that were drawn. Are they fully reflective of the demographics of the city? Not really.”
Latinos are the largest ethnic group in Los Angeles, making up nearly 48 percent of the population, while Black residents comprise 8 percent. There are currently five Latino members on the 15-member council (four when the recording was made) and three Black members.
However, De León’s opponents in the race have used the scandal to attack his candidacy.
Flashback: Police Barricade Doors Against Angry Crowd Protesting LA City Council over Racist Leaked Recordings
Justice LA/LOCAL NEWS X /TMX
Democrat assemblyman Miguel Santiago said De León’s district is “hungry for change.”
“The reality is, while he has been consumed with scandal, he has failed his district,” he added.
Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, another challenger, dismissed De León’s comment that his constituents supported him through the racist scandal.
“Constituents said they didn’t want to have anything to do with the office or the council member,” Carrillo said.
However, De León denounced those using the scandal to attack him, saying it is “a complete false narrative that is perpetuated to meet the opportunistic needs of those who are politically ambitious.”