In Compton, voters poised to choose experience over history for mayor

·3 min read
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 25: Councilwoman Emma Sharif poses for a portrait at her campaign for mayor headquarters in Compton on Tuesday, May 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
Councilwoman Emma Sharif at her campaign headquarters in Compton on May 25. (Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

It was a campaign for Compton mayor pitting a 70-year-old councilwoman with years of political experience and a 26-year-old real estate agent with a chance to become the city's first Latino mayor.

On Wednesday, the veteran seemed poised to win.

Emma Sharif, who has been on the City Council since 2015, has secured about 54% of the votes so far, while her opponent, Cristian Reynaga, has received nearly 46%, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk's website.

A victor will not be named before Friday, as mail-in ballots postmarked on election day have until that day to reach the registrar’s office to be counted, said office spokesman Mike Sanchez. The election results are scheduled to be certified by June 14.

Sharif said she didn’t get home until about 2 a.m. on election night after learning she was leading the race.

“Right now I feel good,” she told The Times on Wednesday afternoon. “Although, I’m not ready to just claim victory, but I am very proud of the lead that we have after the initial votes have been counted.”

Sharif came in second to Reynaga in the primary election. But she said she remained hopeful that she could win. In 2019, she also placed second in the City Council primary but won in the general election.

“I was just hoping that we could do the same this go around as well,” Sharif said.

Although the results aren't final, Compton Unified School District board member Charles Davis celebrated Sharif's lead by encouraging people who attended a small gathering at Sharif's campaign office to dance outside the building.

“People were really happy,” he said of the 30-plus people who were in attendance.

After a strong showing in the primary, Reynaga had appeared close to becoming Compton's first Latino mayor.

Reynaga was trying to capture a vote that has not historically favored Latino candidates, even though Latinos make up 68% of the city's population, while Black residents make up 29%. However, some of the city's Latinos residents are not citizens and are not registered to vote.

Reynaga had been endorsed by the current Compton mayor, Aja Brown, who was 31 when elected.

The city’s new mayor will have to address issues with homelessness, economic development and law enforcement, as well as voter demands to repair the streets and plant more trees.

Reynaga, who has downplayed talks of racial milestones during his campaign, said he was staying optimistic.

Two men wearing masks shake hands outside a house
Cristian Reynaga, right, a mayoral candidate, meets with neighbors in Compton. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

"I was hoping for a bigger turnout, but I'm just grateful for the journey," he said. "There's a possibility that a lot more ballots haven't been processed, so I'm excited to see what that's going to look like."

He added, "Whether her or I win, it's a win for Compton."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.