LA councilman who rebuffed Biden's call to resign after racism scandal is running for reelection

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles councilman who was entangled in a City Hall racism scandal and resisted calls from President Joe Biden and other leading Democrats to resign announced Wednesday that he is running for reelection.

The scandal last year shook public trust in government and led to the resignations of then-Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez and a powerful labor leader.

Democrat Kevin de Leon has apologized repeatedly, but his refusal to resign set off long-running protests that disrupted council meetings. He said in a statement he would seek another term after making “unprecedented strides” in his district, which cuts through downtown Los Angeles.

He has continued to collect his annual salary of about $229,000 — among the most lucrative paydays for city council members in the nation.

The scandal was triggered by a leaked recording of crude, racist comments during a private meeting involving Martinez, de Leon and two others — all Latino Democrats — in which they plotted to expand their political power at the expense of Black voters during a realignment of council district boundaries.

Following the disclosure of the recording, the California Legislative Black Caucus said it “reveals an appalling effort to decentralize Black voices during the critical redistricting process.” Speakers at council meetings said it echoed the Jim Crow era and was a stark example of “anti-Blackness.”

Rivalries among groups separated by race, geography, partisanship or religion have a long history in Los Angeles and the country. The friction can cross into housing, education and jobs — even prisons — as well as the spoils of political power.

Stripped of his ability to participate in council committees and facing pressure to resign, de Leon has been maneuvering in public and private to emerge from political purgatory, despite being reviled by some colleagues who say they cannot work with him.

There is no legal avenue for his colleagues to remove him — the council can only suspend a member when criminal charges are pending.

De Leon, a former state Senate leader, said he has been working on the city's long-running homeless crisis, as well as revitalizing parks and public spaces in his district.

State Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, who says he is running for de Leon's seat, said in a statement that the councilman should resign, not seek another term.

“Enough is enough," Santiago said. “While he has been consumed with scandal, he has failed his district. ... The people want change.”

The primary election is March 5.