(left) Imelda Padilla (right) Marisa Alcaraz

With most of the votes counted in the special election for LA City Council District 6, candidates Imelda Padilla and Marisa Alcaraz are headed for a runoff to replace former City Councilmember Nury Martinez.

The latest balloting numbers show community relations manager Padilla in first place with 3,424 votes, 25.66%, followed by City Hall staff member Alcaraz, with 2,819 votes, 21.13%, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. 

Initially, the second-place race was close, with social activist and former journalist Rose Grygorian and housing nonprofit director Marco Santana on Alcaraz’s heels. Preliminary election figures showed Grygorian in third place with 1,610 votes and Santana in fourth with 1,568. Just 155 votes separated Alcaraz from Santana. 

One week later, Santana received enough votes to move up to third place in the contest but could not catch up with Alcaraz, who solidified her second place with a slightly larger percentage of the vote.

As of press time on Wednesday afternoon, Alcaraz had 296 more votes than Santana.   

Only 88 ballots are left to be counted, with final results slated to be certified Friday, according to election authorities.

Because no candidate received a majority in the April 4 election, the top two vote-getters will meet in a runoff, whose deadline to cast ballots is June 27.

Despite the scandal generated by the secretly recorded racist comments by Martinez in a private meeting with City Council colleagues and a labor leader, which led to the councilwoman’s resignation last October, the special election to replace Martinez drew less than 12 percent of voters to cast a ballot. 

The total election count stands at 13,506. There are 109,388 constituents registered in the district.

The 6th District covers the central and eastern San Fernando Valley, encompassing the communities of Arleta, Lake Balboa, North Hollywood, North Hills, Panorama City, Van Nuys and Sun Valley.

Currently, the district is being overseen by a nonvoting caretaker, the city’s chief legislative analyst Sharon Tso. A nonvoting caretaker does not hold a seat on the council but oversees the council office to make sure the district provides constituent services and other basic functions.

The winner of the special election will finish Martinez’s term, which ends in December 2024.

Homelessness, jobs, the environment and public safety are among the top issues of this special election.

Padilla on Issues

Padilla has pledged to prioritize “an immediate solution to the unhoused crisis because what is currently occurring is not working.”

“I will propose an emergency remediation of encampments, connecting the unhoused population to essential services that will support them in finding housing, employment and health services,” Padilla said on her campaign’s website. “I will work cohesively with all stakeholders, residents, nonprofit organizations, religious leaders, business owners and health organizations to develop and implement sensible hyper-local solutions that make our communities safer, sanitary and sustainable.”

The 35-year-old Padilla was born in Van Nuys and raised in Sun Valley, graduating from Roscoe Elementary School, Byrd Middle School and Polytechnic High School. She received a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree from Cal State Northridge.

Padilla is endorsed by various labor organizations, including the Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West, International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s Southern

California District Council, International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 13 and Laborers Local Union Local 300.

Politicians backing Padilla include US Congressman Tony Cardenas (D-29) from the San Fernando Valley and LA City Councilmember Monica Rodriguez.

Alcaraz’s Priorities 

For her part, Alcaraz has said she “will prioritize helping people without homes off our streets and into housing, where they can get the care they need to get back on their feet.”

Alcaraz has said she supports conducting extensive outreach and having a “Housing First” approach. “We need to continue to invest in outreach teams, especially the multi-disciplinary teams that include a nurse and mental health professional,” she said.

The 38-year-old Alcaraz is deputy chief of staff and environmental policy director to Ninth District Councilmember Curren Price. She was raised in Lake Balboa and graduated from Birmingham High School. She holds a bachelor’s degree from UC Irvine and a master’s degree from USC.

Alcaraz is also backed by some labor groups, including the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 770, International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 94 and Southwest Mountain States Regional Council of Carpenters.

Alcaraz is also endorsed by two members of the LA City Council, her boss, Councilmember Price, and Councilmember Heather Hutt. Other supporters include state Sen. Steve Bradford, Assemblymembers Wendy Carrillo, Mike Fong and Mike Gipson and San Fernando Councilmember Cindy Montañez.

Resident’s Voices

María de Los Angeles Chavez of Panorama City looks forward to voting again in the runoff after having cast a ballot for Santana in the April 4 election. The 36-year-old says that more voters from Latino and other communities must make themselves heard with the power of their votes. 

“We have to go to the polls,” she states and challenges local residents to overcome political apathy. “A lot of people only complain about the state of things but they don’t participate. But we must inform ourselves and vote for those who will represent us in government, from the LA City Council to the White House.” That’s what Chavez says she’s been doing since becoming a citizen about five years ago. “I registered to vote the same day I became naturalized and also signed up with a political party,” she adds and smiles. “I’m really happy that my voice counts.”

Homelessness is an issue of concern for Chavez. “We get a lot of indigents around here,” she said recently during a break from her job as a barista in a Van Nuys coffee shop. “There’s also a lot around where I live. We have to find a solution to this problem in our community.”

Like Chavez, Leonor Altamira Ramirez also wants to see more people going to the polls. Although the 50-year-old Van Nuys resident cannot vote, she wishes those who can do their civic duty to bring about improvements in the San Fernando Valley and speak for those who are not citizens. Ramirez is concerned about empty lots along Sepulveda Boulevard that she says have become a blight, attracting criminal activity, drugs and prostitution. “Kids are exposed to that on their way to school,” she complains.  

Regardless of who ultimately wins the District 6 seat, Ramirez hopes the new councilmember will help connect people like her to existing community services to better the lives of Valley residents and their families. “There are many programs that people don’t know about,” she says. The woman knows that firsthand. “I’ve been homeless myself and struggled with mental health issues,” she reveals. “After many years, I was finally connected with the services I needed. Now I have a roof over my head and also a support group.”

Says Ramirez, “I want to see that voters elect a councilmember that is responsible, committed to helping people and willing to do the work to improve our neighborhoods.”