Incumbent Ryu, challenger Raman compete to be most progressive candidate in L.A. City Council race

Election guide
Los Angeles City Council candidates David Ryu and Nithya Raman are running to represent a district that stretches from Sherman Oaks to the Miracle Mile. (Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles City Council candidates David Ryu and Nithya Raman are running to represent a district that stretches from Sherman Oaks to the Miracle Mile. (Los Angeles Times)

An incumbent Los Angeles city council member is hoping to withstand a challenge from the left in the race to represent District 4, which covers wealthy, majority-white neighborhoods like Hancock Park and the Hollywood Hills as well as more diverse, higher-density parts of the city like Silver Lake and the Greater Wilshire area.

Councilman David Ryu, seeking a second term, faces off against progressive candidate Nithya Raman, an MIT-educated urban planner and homelessness nonprofit leader.

Raman forced Ryu to a runoff in the March primary, trailing him by 41.1% to 44.7%, a difference of 2,796 votes in a three-way race.

It’s one of two City Council races on the ballot in L.A., along with a race between county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and attorney and community activist Grace Yoo to fill an open seat in District 10.

About the district:

It sprawls from Sherman Oaks east to Griffith Park and south to Koreatown, covering Hollywood, Van Nuys and Miracle Mile. The district encompasses more than 250,000 Angelenos. Here is a map.

About the race:

When Ryu won his seat in 2015, he positioned himself as a reformer and outsider who would change the status quo at City Hall. He emerged from a field of 14 candidates in the primary, defeating Carolyn Ramsay, who was chief of staff to the district’s longtime Councilman Tom LaBonge, in the general election. Now, Raman has pushed Ryu further to the left, and some of her supporters accuse him of mimicking her platforms on topics like rent freezes, affordable housing and campaign finance.

Both candidates brand themselves as progressive and say their experiences as Asian American immigrants spurred them to fight injustice and inequality.

Ryu pushed the council to create an inspector general and anti-corruption office in City Hall, and he points to his success getting approval for restrictions on political donations from developers. Raman says Ryu’s efforts haven’t gone far enough and calls them a “record of failure,” the Los Angeles Times reported. Both candidates pledged not to accept donations from developers, and Raman says she has further refused to accept funds from corporations and other outside groups.

The race has drawn national attention, with Ryu securing endorsements from the Democratic establishment and Raman garnering the support of more progressive groups as well as Hollywood heavy-hitters like Tina Fey, Natalie Portman and Jane Fonda.

About Ryu:

Ryu, 45, immigrated from South Korea as a child as says he grew up in a “cramped east Hollywood apartment,” with the family sometimes on food stamps. He now lives in Studio City.

He was the first Korean American elected to L.A.’s City Council, and only the second Asian American.

Ryu attended Bravo Medical Magnet High School in Boyle Heights before earning a bachelor’s degree from UCLA and master’s in public policy administration from Rutgers University.

Earlier in his career, he worked as an aide to then-county Supervisor Yvonne Burke, where he says he focused on foster youth, homelessness and mental health. He also worked in public affairs and development at a psychiatric hospital and community health center in South L.A.

He’s endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, 10 of his fellow council members, the L.A. County Democratic Party, L.A. County Federation of Labor and more than two dozen labor unions.

Here is where you can learn more about Ryu’s policies, and here is a list of his endorsements.

About Raman:

Raman immigrated from India as a child and grew up in Louisiana and Boston. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a master’s in urban planning from MIT. After graduate school, she returned to India and worked to provide services like clean water in slums, founding a research firm called Transparent Chennai. She moved to L.A. with her husband in 2013, taking a job with the L.A. city administrative office and compiling a report that found significant misuse of homelessness funding.  

When the #MeToo movement began, Raman became the first executive director of Time’s Up Entertainment, a campaign against sexual misconduct in Hollywood. If elected, she would be just the third woman currently sitting on the 15-member council.

Raman co-chaired homeless outreach efforts at the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council and founded the SELAH Neighborhood Homeless Coalition with a group of neighbors in 2017.

She’s endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Socialists of America, the Working Families Party, the National Women’s Political Caucus and Sarah Kate Levy, who finished third in the District 4 primary.

Here is where Raman says she stands on the issues.

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