Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

CD4 City Council Campaign Heats Up

Images from the Nithya Raman and David Ryu campaign websites.

With less than three weeks before election day, the campaign for the CD4 City Council seat is heating up, with incumbent Councilmember David Ryu running hard against challenger and political newcomer Nithya Raman…and Raman running just as hard to unseat Ryu.  But as the election gets closer, the tone of the race and comments from supporters have become decidedly more negative, especially on social media, where several key supporters have posted not only negative but seemingly threatening messages, with one even printing Ryu’s home address.

And the negativity is not just virtual, but has also spilled over into in-person encounters. The Buzz has heard reports of campaign signs being ripped down and replaced by supporters of the opposing candidate, and heated verbal exchanges at campaign tables at local venues.  And some residents are becoming increasingly turned off by the rising temperatures.

Helen Eigenberg, a local resident who said she faced very heated comments from a Raman supporter as she was working at a Ryu campaign table at the Larchmont Farmers Market two weeks ago, said the experience left her shaken.  “If I’m going to face this at the Farmers Market today, I’m not going to want to go to the Farmers Market,” Eigenberg told the Buzz.

Eigenberg said she doesn’t mind polite disagreements with people who support another candidate — “If someone says they’re voting for Nithya, great, have a nice day” — but she has found people on the other side in this election very “aggressive,” which she finds odd, since both candidates in the non-partisan race are fairly progressive Democrats who believe in most of the same things.

As the negativity has increased, however, nearly 80 community activists who support Ryu recently signed a letter that was sent to the Raman campaign, asking Raman to denounce supporters who have attacked Ryu on social media.

We want to make sure you are aware of the tenor and actions of your campaign and some of your supporters,” the letter said. “We have seen David Ryu lawn signs destroyed or removed, which some of your supporters even brag about online. We have seen misleading statements, racist and homphobic tropes, and downright lies propagated by your staff, supporters, and endorsers. We have even seen threats of physical attack.”

The authors of the letter did not hear back from Raman directly, but her campaign provided the following statement from Raman to the Buzz:

“I share the concerns about online harassment that have been shared with me. Like many women running for office, especially women of color, I’ve been subjected to significant amounts of it throughout this race, including from people who support my opponent.

The vitriol has reached the point that as of a few weeks ago, I chose to take a break from looking at my own social media comments — something I used to enjoy to see how people were engaging with the issues our campaign was bringing forward.

Just as I do not and have never initiated, encouraged, or supported personal attacks on Councilmember Ryu on any platform, I do not believe that he is encouraging these attacks on me. None of the social media posts referenced in the letter sent to me are from individuals who work on my campaign.

What we’ve accomplished with this campaign is to give people who are frustrated with how our city has responded to some of our biggest challenges a positive place to channel those frustrations — an opportunity for people to learn about the power of local government, and about policies that can help get us to a healthier, more sustainable city going forward. I continue to believe that’s the most effective way to approach dissatisfaction with elected officials.

Our campaign has led by example – we’re running with an overwhelmingly positive message that has focused on detailed policy discussions about the change we can have in LA, and on fact-based critiques of politics and policymaking in Los Angeles.”

When asked about the community letter and Raman’s response, Mark Pampanin, spokesperson for Ryu’s campaign, told the Buzz , “I think the [neighbors’] letter speaks for itself. I don’t believe that a real progressive agenda is won through bullying. Anyone running for office should be held accountable for the behavior of their supporters, and for the tone they foster in our community.”

Roots of the Rancor

In general, the most recent negative campaign volleys seem to center on a couple of key issues.  The first is campaign funding, with both sides accusing the other of taking the kinds of corporate funds they both disavow – mostly from real estate and development companies, and from fossil fuel companies.


Tweet from the Democratic Socialists of America, which has endorsed Nithya Raman.

Despite the accusations, however, and according to the city website that tracks campaign donations, both Ryu and Raman have received funds from organizations they pledged not to take money from, but both candidates say they have also been returning those funds. (From the start of his term in office, Ryu has stood on a platform of transparency, creating a task for to advise on discretionary funds spending, calling for public financing of elections and a ban on contributions to city council members from developers who have projects before the city. However, it took Ryu several years before his colleagues on the City Council gave their support allowing his efforts to move forward.)

Larchmont Pocket Park

A second campaign issue that briefly reared its head, at least in our local neighborhoods, is the pocket park that was proposed in 2018 for a section of the city-owned parking lot on Larchmont Blvd.

A few days ago, Windsor Square resident Gary Gilbert, who was among the most vocal opponents of the park project when it was proposed, sent a letter to residents and supporters of his effort to stop the park, saying he supports Raman in the current campaign because he thought Ryu was dishonest in his handling of the park. Gilbert alleges that Ryu’s campaign advertising is similarly dishonest.  For example, Gilbert told the Buzz that he was told by the Council office that the park project still “on hold,” which is what we reported in April, but he also heard from others the park is dead. Gilbert said he believes there’s a distinction between “on hold” and “dead,” and that he would like to see Ryu definitely state the park will not happen.

In a fundraising event with Hancock Park and Windsor Square residents earlier this week, however, Ryu did make a more definitive statement about the proposed playground.  “Contrary to some misinformation out there, the pocket park is dead,” said Ryu in response to a question from a Hancock Park resident at the fundraiser. And this was confirmed by Ryu’s campaign to the Buzz today.  “The pocket park idea is off the table,” said Pampanin. “As Councilmember Ryu has repeatedly made clear, there are no plans to resurface this idea or build a pocket park in Larchmont. Any claim otherwise is a total fabrication and a desperate attempt to mislead the community.”

Not the First Negative Campaign

While the recent community letters reveal a schism among residents in the highly active Hancock Park, Windsor Square, Larchmont Village and other local neighborhoods, it is not the first time this has happened in a local city council race. A similar polarization occurred in 2015, when residents of Hancock Park, frustrated by what they saw as a lack of action on repairing local historic concrete streets by termed out City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, refused to support Carolyn Ramsay, LaBonge’s chief of staff, who was running to replace the longtime council member. The neighborhoods’ support and a more general anti-incumbent sentiment swept Ryu into office…and now he finds himself on the other side of that equation, as the incumbent facing a movement seeking to clean house in city government.

Latest Developments and the Final Stretch

In the final days of the campaign, Ryu is relying his relationships with community leaders to motivate their friends. In the Zoom-based fundraising event with constituents from Hancock Park and Windsor Square Monday evening,  Ryu told supporters he needs their help because the race is very close.  He urged them to donate, even “just $10, but more would be great if they have it.” Ryu also thanked his supporters for their efforts in asking Raman to disavow negative campaigning by her supporters.

For her part, Raman is relying in a similar grassroots strategy and points to the enthusiasm that she’s generated among young voters. This week, her campaign announced that Raman has also won the endorsement of Senator Bernie Sanders:

“Bernie Sanders has endorsed us in our LA City Council race. I can’t tell you how much that means to me. He was the person who showed me the possibilities of politics. He proved that, just by leading with values, we can build lasting movements for change. Thank you, Bernie.”

Just a few days later, however, Ryu’s campaign announced House Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed his campaign:

“Team Ryu is proud to add Speaker Nancy Pelosi to our broad coalition of supporters. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed David Ryu today in his re-election campaign for Los Angeles’ Fourth Council District. David Ryu became the first Korean-American elected in Los Angeles history in 2015.

“Nancy Pelosi is a leader who knows how to get things done,” Councilmember Ryu said. “She helped pass Obamacare into law, expanding healthcare coverage for millions of Americans. She has reigned in Wall Street, led the repeal of the discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, and successfully beat back attempts to privatize Social Security. She knows how to move this country forward. I am proud to call her my Speaker and honored to have her support in this race.””

And then, today, Sarah Kate Levy, who also ran against Ryu in the March primary this year, announced that she is throwing her support behind Raman. Levy, who cited her four children as the primary reason for her own candidacy earlier this year, said she believes Raman is best prepared with specific policy proposals to help lead the city through our current crises.  And she ended her email by saying:

“And here’s something else that’s important to me: Nithya’s a mom. I know firsthand how difficult it can be, running a campaign while managing your family. The fact that Nithya has run a competitive race while raising young kids tells me she’ll be able to manage whatever chaos comes her way at City Hall.”

We’ll likely be hearing a lot more from both sides as the campaign heads into its final couple of weeks.

[This story was updated after publication to change the description of the Ryu supporters who sent a letter to Raman’s campaign from “community leaders” to “community activists.”]

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  1. “The pocket park idea is off the table,” said Pampanin. “As Councilmember Ryu has repeatedly made clear, there are no plans to resurface this idea or build a pocket park in Larchmont. Any claim otherwise is a total fabrication and a desperate attempt to mislead the community.”
    Well. the only thing that’s clear to me is that Mark needs to spend more time talking to David’s own chief of staff, Nick Greif. On September 18th, less than a month ago, I emailed Nick and asked him if it was true, as I was told by others, “that the proposed pocket park is DEAD (my caps added), but as far as I can remember, the last official statement was that it was ON HOLD until after a community meeting was held to discuss the project. Are they mistaken”?
    Nick’s answer, on September 21st, just a few weeks ago … “Hi, Gary. the project continues to be ON HOLD.”
    As you can see, Nick make the clear and unmistakeable differentiation between being “dead” and still “on hold”, stating unequivocally that it is not dead; in fact, this was one of the reasons I so strongly criticized David’s inaction in my recent email to friends and neighbors. So if Mark is indeed correct, it looks like the “total fabrication and desperate attempt to mislead the community” emanates from David’s own office, and he only needs to check down the hall.
    Maybe Mark can solve this by supplying to the Buzz and the community the examples of when David has “repeatedly made it clear” that there are no plans to build a pocket park, since I haven’t seen any, and needless to say it’s a topic I’m paying close attention to. I look forward to that list from Mark, as do others I’m sure.
    But all of this chatter about the market and what was announced and when ignores the larger reality here, which is that we as a community expect honesty from our officials, and speaking personally, I haven’t gotten that from Ryu. I recently send an email to many in the community criticizing David’s campaign practices after seeing a video his people created that accused his opponent of certain things the record clearly shows he himself is guilty of. David called me soon after, to express his disappointment in me not supporting him, and I told him that he has disappointed me as well, with behavior I can’t accept from my representatives, and I asked him a number of times to show me anything in my email that isn’t true and I said that I would immediately retract it and issue an apology, and he couldn’t, as I suspected.
    The reason this campaign has become so volatile and at times toxic is that everyone on both sides, all of us good friends, are so incredibly passionate about the same thing, finally finding a solution to the plague of homelessness that surrounds us, and we are all convinced that our candidate is the best one for the job. None of us has the ability to see into the future, so we need to take our guesses, either going with the guy with hands on experience who’s done some things well, or the newcomer with bold ideas that just might shakes things up and get to closer to the goal we all share. I’m going with the bold new ideas, and the person who I think has run the most honorable campaign.


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