L.A. Councilman Parks celebrates narrow victory; Hogan-Rowles won't seek recount
Celebrating his narrow victory on Friday, Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard C. Parks said voters "saw through the facade" of the well-funded campaign mounted against him by public service unions in the March 8 city election.
"There was a perception of unfairness of other people trying to pick their leadership," said Parks, whose win gives him a third term representing the 8th District.
According to final election tallies released early Friday, Parks won 51.21% of the vote, escaping a runoff with his chief challenger, Forescee Hogan-Rowles. Their contest was the only council race with preliminary results close enough to potentially turn on the absentee ballots that were counted in recent weeks.
In a statement Friday, Hogan-Rowles said her opponent's narrow victory "sends an important message to elected leaders like Bernard Parks, who ignore their constituents and the workers who keep our city working."
Public employee unions spent at least $1.2 million to defeat Parks, who has called for layoffs and furloughs and has argued that city employee pensions are too generous. Brian D'Arcy, the leader of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, whose political action committee spent more than $617,000 to defeat Parks, said the election showed that nearly half the voters in the 8th district "were deeply dissatisfied" with his leadership.
"Despite his endorsements by community icons, Parks' slim margin underscores the discontent with his record within his district," D'Arcy said in a statement. "We are committed to continuing to work with our allies to support candidates who will stand up for the working men and women of Los Angeles."
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18 all opposed Parks. In the 8th District, the unions' spending amounted to about $174 for each ballot cast for Hogan-Rowles. Outside groups including the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce spent $144,000 to boost Parks — about $18 per vote.
The Los Angeles City Clerk's office has not calculated the turnout in the 8th District, which stretches in a "T" shape from Baldwin Hills and the neighborhoods around USC south almost to the 105 Freeway. According to the final tallies, Parks won 9,482 votes and Hogan-Rowles won 8,058 (or 43.52% of the total votes). A third candidate, Jabari Jumaane, won 975 votes ( 5.27%).
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who served as councilman in the 8th District before Parks and who campaigned hard on behalf of Hogan-Rowles, said he thought Hogan-Rowles could have forced a runoff if the election had been held a week later. The fact that Parks avoided the runoff by only a few hundred votes, he said, should be "very unsettling for the incumbent."
But Parks said his victory was a vote of confidence. He said that in his third term he planned to call for election reforms that would limit the role of nonprofits in elections and institute harsher consequences for false campaign attacks.
Already considered one of the most hawkish figures on the City Council on budget matters, he promised to be an even stronger voice for fiscal responsibility. Term limits mean this will be his last, and Parks said he was looking forward to governing without worrying about reelection.
"I've been holding back for 45 years," Parks said. "Now I can say what's on my mind."
-- Kate Linthicum and Maeve Reston at Los Angeles City Hall
Photo: Bernard Parks. Credit: Nico Smedley / Los Angeles Times