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Villaraigosa appointee is 12th to seek Garcetti's L.A. council seat

June 11, 2012 |  4:28 pm

Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti addresses the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting last fall. A 12th person, John Choi, has announced he will run for Garcetti's council seat.

The lengthy list of candidates looking to replace Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti grew yet again Monday, with an appointee of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announcing he will run for the seat in the March 2013 election.

John Choi, one of Villaraigosa’s five representatives on the Board of Public Works, became the 12th person to say he will compete for Garcetti’s seat, which represents portions of Hollywood, Silver Lake, Echo Park and Historic Filipinotown. He gave the mayor his resignation notice Friday and will step down  later this week.

Garcetti is leaving his council post to run for mayor when Villaraigosa completes his second and final term.

Choi, 31, is the third Korean American to announce a run for the seat, just months after Koreatown civic leaders staged protests and offered angry testimony about the new maps drawn for the council’s 15 districts. Those leaders had tried without success to move Koreatown into Garcetti’s district, saying it would improve the chances for an Asian candidate to win a council seat.

The council will vote Wednesday on the final maps. Choi said those demonstrations shaped his decision to run -– and showed that Korean Americans are “hungry for a real political voice,” he said.

“Yes, it was a factor. But it wasn’t the overriding factor," said Choi, who has worked for both Villaraigosa and former Councilman Martin Ludlow. "This election isn’t just about Korean Americans. It’s about trying to present a larger vision for the whole city -– not just one community being underrepresented, but a number of communities.”

Two other Korean Americans have announced plans to run for Garcetti’s seat: BongHwan Kim, general manager of the city’s Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, and Emile Mack, who until recently was a high-level official with the city’s Fire Department.

The list of potential candidates also includes Jose Sigala, a former aide to Councilman Richard Alarcon, and Mitch O’Farrell, a former deputy to Garcetti.

Choi, who lives in Echo Park, could find himself competing against another high-level member of Villaraigsosa’s administration: Deputy Chief ofSstaff Matt Szabo, who has been looking at a council candidacy since last year.

Szabo, who is gay, rode with Villaraigosa in the L.A. Pride gay and lesbian parade Sunday and is widely expected to seek Garcetti’s seat.


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Photo: Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti addresses the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting last fall. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times