It’s insider vs. outsider as Ridley-Thomas and Yoo compete to win an open L.A. City Council seat

Election guide
Mark Ridley-Thomas and Grace Yoo are seen in undated photos. (Brian van der Brug, Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Mark Ridley-Thomas and Grace Yoo are seen in undated photos. (Brian van der Brug, Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

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Most of this year’s Los Angeles City Council races were decided in the June primary, but two are still before voters — and only one is an open seat.

That’s the battle to represent Council District 10 in the seat that Councilman Herb Wesson has held since 2005. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is facing off with attorney and community activist Grace Yoo.

Mark Ridley-Thomas and Grace Yoo are seen in undated photos. (Brian van der Brug, Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Mark Ridley-Thomas and Grace Yoo are seen in undated photos. (Brian van der Brug, Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Wesson is now running for the seat Ridley-Thomas is termed out of on the powerful county Board of Supervisors, and the supervisor is looking to return to the council, where he started his political career nearly three decades ago.

Yoo is looking for a different result in her second bid for the 10th District seat. In 2016, she earned 29.7% of the vote to Wesson’s 63.3%. This year’s five-candidate primary saw her garner 23.6% of the vote, while Ridley-Thomas got 44.3%.

About the district:

It includes the South L.A. neighborhoods of Harvard Heights, Leimert Park, Arlington Heights and West Adams, as well as parts of Koreatown, Mid-City and Wilshire Center.

About the race:

Ridley-Thomas and Yoo are vying to succeed Wesson in a seat he held for 15 years.

This insider-versus-outsider contest has turned contentious in recent weeks, with Ridley-Thomas accusing Yoo of defamation when she registered a website with his name in the URL, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Because of term limits, Ridley-Thomas is only eligible to serve one term on the council, and he intends to run for mayor in 2022, according to the Times. Yoo has criticized him for that.

Residents of Council District 10 have concerns similar to those in most other parts of the city, including housing and homelessness. Traffic is also a persistent issue in the area’s dense residential base, and the district has limited parks and green space. 

About Mark Ridley-Thomas:

Ridley-Thomas, a 66-year-old resident of the Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw neighborhood, has been a long-time player in Los Angeles politics. He started his career as an elected official in 1991 on the body he’s now seeking to return to, representing Council District 8.

Facing term limits in the council, in 2002 he ran for and won a state Assembly seat and then, later, a state Senate seat. He was elected to his county Board of Supervisors seat in 2008.

Ridley-Thomas holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Immaculate Heart College, and earned a Ph.D. in social ethics and policy analysis from USC.

An author of Measure H, the massive anti-homelessness county bond measure passed by a supermajority of voters in 2017, Ridley-Thomas has long been focused on housing and services for people experiencing homelessness, along with related issues such as mental health.

He has also been an advocate for policing and criminal justice reform, and has called on embattled Sheriff Alex Villanueva to step down.

Here is where Ridley-Thomas says he stands on the issues, and here is a list of his endorsements.

About Grace Yoo:

Yoo, 49, was born in South Korea, came to Los Angeles when she was 3 and attended L.A. public schools. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from UC Riverside and a law degree from Seton Hall University Law School. She lives in Arlington Heights.

Yoo began her legal career representing abused and neglected children, then became executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. For nearly a decade, until 2014, she was executive director of the Korean American Coalition — Los Angeles.

She now runs her own law firm specializing in estate planning, wills, trusts and probate. Yoo also volunteers and serves on numerous boards, committees and task-forces for organizations.

She was involved with a successful effort to prevent a homeless shelter being built in Koreatown, but says homelessness and affordable housing are her top priority.

Calling herself a “formidable critic of City Hall,” she argues local elected leaders have become too involved in their own political success and stopped listening to their constituents.

Here is where you can you read more about Yoo’s policy positions, and here is a list of her endorsements.

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