Ballot Box: The “Mystery Man” who wants to takeover Eric Garcetti’s job

John Choi at Atwater Village candidate forum./The Eastsider

A new L.A. Weekly story tries to answer the question that many have been asking across the 13th Council District: Who is Mystery Man John Choi? Before he announced his candidacy to replace termed-out Councilman Eric Garcetti, Choi, a former Board of Public Works Commissioner, was mostly unknown across the district. In fact, the 32-year-old Choi did not even live in Council District 13, which includes Atwater Village, Echo Park & Silver Lake, until last year. But with the financial support of powerful labor unions, Choi’s name and face  has been plastered across the district on billboards and posters as he prepares for a May 21 runoff against Mitchell O’Farrell, a former Garcetti adviser, who garnered the most vote in the March 5 primary.

The Weekly says that Choi would have fared even more poorly without the support of the L.A. County Federation of Labor and its leader, Maria Elena Durazo.

Political analyst Jaime Regalado says Choi — unknown to voters, new to the community and up against well-regarded local leaders in the primary — would have been a second- or even a third-tier candidate if not for the $230,000 Durazo spent on him. Matt Szabo, the former L.A. deputy mayor who lost to O’Farrell and Choi in the March 5 primary, says, “He’s clearly running a campaign based solely on his labor endorsement.”

Despite the large amounts of union cash backing his campaign, Choi denied claims that he would be obligated to support labor-related positions if elected to the City Council. He told the Weekly, “I’m going to be beholden to the people in the 13th District.”

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  1. He seems like a polished speaker, which makes me a little nervous. But I’m okay with his policy stances, in general.

    • Political Watchdog

      He’re something else that might make you a little more nervous: He may be backed by big union and special interest money, but that didn’t stop him from accepting maximum campaign contributions from seven employees from Forever 21 , a clothing store company that used factories that exploited workers. Also $700 donation from a restaurant server in La Habra Heights. Really? Where on Earth are there restaurant employees that can afford to donate $700 to support a carpetbagger in another city. He’s got money coming in from the City of El Monte, Denver Colorado, Honolulu, HI, West Covina, Buena Park, the State of Maryland, New York, Sacramento and on and on. And let’s not forget Alexander Choi, the restaurant server from Orange County that donated $700.00. Wow, so nice of him to donate all that saved up tip money. It’s all here on the LA City Ethics website: http://ethics.lacity.org/disclosure/campaign/totals/public_election.cfm?election_id=45

      • The Forever 21 donation is most likely because he is Korean. I’ve been getting a lot of targeted advertising because of my Asian last name. They know we Koreans stick together and the Changs of Forever 21 have a boatload of money to spread around.

      • He was/is a union organizer. What ever that is. But here are the questions you must ask yourself.

        If the unions back a candidate to get him elected and it comes time to negotiate contracts, who will be there to represent the TAXPAYER? Why would a union back a candidate if they didn’t expect something in return? Hmmmm.?

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYQiUGPy-nk

      the thing that irks me about this youtube…it is korean…
      this is supposed to be an english speaking neighborhood
      korean broadcasting…
      will I have to learn Korean for him to be our city councilman..NO!

  2. No local history, no record to run on, and an emerging notoriety for claiming credit for the accomplishments of others has soured me on this candidate. General policy stances aren’t good enough. What does he specificly know about, what does he specificly want, and what can he specificly do for the 13th District? I want to know how well he can serve not be elected.

    • Are you talking about Choi? It sounds like you are talking about Garcetti — whose only difference, including being a carpetbagger, was that daddy made his name recognizable.

      • Nope. I’m definitely talking about Choi. He’s simply not qualified to represent or even serve my district. Never mind Garcetti. I’m no huge fan of his either. I have much harsher things to say about his dad. Anyway, Eric was a culture shock in the wrong direction following the dedicated and crusading service of Jackie Goldberg who provided a rousing culture shock following the complacent representation of Woo. My impression is that Choi is definitely interested in being elected but really has no burning interest or passion to serve. If he had a record of service to stand on I’d take notice but as of right now he’s all ambition and no creds.

      • Paul,
        I agree!! they are all carpet baggers, why can’t we have a candidate that is born and raised from this district!

  3. Mitch O’Farrell.

    • Please, Mitch says he lives on Fletcher Drive in a low income apartment building, How long has Mitch Lived there? Please anyone?

  4. A suspiciously over monied carpetbagger vs someone who’s been working for and has known and lived in this community for years … not a tough choice.

    Seems like he’d be all for the Barlow expansion; an insensitively outsized project that would provide some temporary union jobs at the expense of permanent neighborhood deterioration and parkland / green space loss.

    I have no problem with all the density increasing projects, small lot condos and whatnot, but the Barlow expansion seems really bad.

    Choi’s campaign has the smell of deep pockets flying in their yes boy.

  5. I remember seeing a video here on TheEastsider several weeks ago featuring Choi at a local meeting, introducing and promoting himself. I was so negatively impressed that I immediately crossed him off my list.

  6. With all the union leaders and liberal activists who call CD13 home, and have called it home for many years, I am mystified as to why they can’t find qualified candidates to support who have a true history in the community. I guess those leaders are true leaders and think independently. When was the last time we had a City Councilmember who actually took a position and didn’t give some vague support that changes with the winds? Around 1998?

  7. John Choi has no record of accomplishment in CD-13, and the vast majority of his campaign funding comes from outside the district.

    Mitch O’Farrell has lived in the district for almost 20 years and can point to a long list of improvements he’s worked on as a member of Eric Garcetti’s staff. He knows the specifics of local issues down to the street-corner level and can describe the impacts of individual recent development projects. He had the highest percentage of in-district financing of any candidate in the primary.

    Whichever is your preference, we certainly can’t complain of having two identical candidates running in this race.

  8. Mitch is the best man for the job. Hands down. Mitch truly cares about this community and has been working for our neighborhood and living in our neighborhood for YEARS.
    MITCH, we love you!

  9. Enough with the carpetbaggers, already.

    But it’s understandable why the unions might try again. After all, they got Kevin DeLeon elected as our rep to the State Assembly. His connection to the community? Taking a break from Bay Area organizitheming enough to allegedly crash on the Angeleno Heights couch of a Gil Cedillo staffer during the application period.

    Vote for Mitch.

  10. At one of those neighborhood council Q & A meetings he was asked about the Barlow Expansion Project and he had absolutely no idea what it even was. I’d bet all my $ he couldn’t even find it on a map. Plus I rec’d enough Choi flyers to fill a blue bin.

  11. I’ve had enough of union bashing to weigh in here…I’ve no idea why Choi has union support…this seems to be backroom politics…OK. That’s beyond me. I am SO supportive of Mitch O’Farrell! This guy is the real deal–on the ground policy making and community support…He’s clearly the best candidate.

    I just can’t stand by and listen to anti-union grandstanding. Collective bargaining represents just the faintest hope of standing up for economic justice and a fair shake in the employment market.

    Bash the power elite, not your hardworking neighbors….sheesh!

    • Agreed! Thanks Elysian Heights.

      Unfortunately I have to pay twice for this elections, via my union dues to Choi and my contributions to Mitch!

    • EH, my comment was not intended as union bashing. I would be as uncomfortable if the US Chamber of Commerce was giving big support to a candidate.

      In a community (and city) as complex as ours, elected officials need to be able to balance multiple interests and priorities from a local perspective. In my dealings with him, Mitch has proven himself adept at doing so.

  12. Sorry but public unions have robbed the taxpayers. Time to dial them back big time

    • Alma, union contracts are made between parties. All concerned sign these contracts. So, sure, if you want to “dial them back”, then elect rep’s that favor that. But don’t blame unions, who are just negotiating for the best deal they can get for members.

      • At least your honest about the raping you do.

        Unions elect the candidate then it is quid pro quo. But guess what mr union man, eventually the till runs dry. I can’t wait till the city has to declare bankruptcy and is forced to renegotiate your salaries and benefits to market rates.

        There is an end to this scam and it is near. To you I say congratulations! You finally broke it! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!

        • All I can say is, “whoa”, you really drank the kool-aid! Ok, go ahead, Keyless Chuck….dig your own grave. Have fun in the dog-eat-dog world where you don’t stand a chance!

          • You are so blinded by your greed. You really think that a “union” carpenter (for example) is worth $45 an hour when the same labor can be provided for $20?
            This union rape HAS existed and MAY exist for a while longer but my point is, there IS a tipping point and we are very very close to it. And you, the recipient of such greedy tactics, are too blinded to realize this simple fact.

            The market has always been the determinant and always will. But, good luck though….

          • Hey, Keyless Chuck…will you please “dial back” the “rape” references….they’re out of line and not relevant to the topic of negotiated agreements between labor and management.

          • A perfect deflecting-non-answer to what you know is a valid point.


  13. Choi told me all I needed know about him when at one of the last candidate forums before the election he deferred commenting on the proposed Barlow development, citing an unfamiliarity with the issue.

    • He’s used that line repeatedly even after being schooled on the subject by locals.

    • I can’t find it, but a number of weeks prior to the primary a site posted Choi answering questions including one about Barlow at a public forum. Does anyone have the link? It should be posted over and over again during runoff campaign.

      I watched the whole Choi segment; he was entirely unimpressive but in particular his answer on Barlow was appalling. Either he was pretending he knew nothing about the issue or did in fact know nothing. How could you presume to think you should represent an area while knowing nothing about one of its most important issues?

      Given how much outside money came Choi’s way during the primary, it’s alarming to think how much his outside-the-district supporters will pay to buy him the Council seat in the runoff. Aside from helping on the Mitch O’Farrell campaign directly I hope district #13 voters will remind their friends, relatives, and neighbors that this is an important election.

      • I think the number I heard last was…choi campaign funds is around $1.5m
        I don’t know where that figure came from…but it is alarming!

  14. I would love to see a Mitch O’Farrell – “Johnny Appleseed” Choi debate.

  15. Political Watchdog

    He may be backed by big union and special interest money, but that didn’t stop him from accepting maximum campaign contributions from seven employees from Forever 21 , a clothing store company that used factories that exploited workers. Also $700 donations from a restaurant worker outside of the City of LA? Where on Earth are there restaurant employees that can afford to donate $700 to support a carpetbagger in another city. He’s got money coming in from the City of El Monte, Denver Colorado, Honolulu, HI, West Covina, Buena Park, the State of Maryland, New York, Sacramento and on and on. And let’s not forget Alexander Choi, the restaurant server from Orange County that donated $700.00. Wow, so nice of him to donate all that saved up tip money. It’s all here on the LA City Ethics website: http://ethics.lacity.org/disclosure/campaign/totals/public_election.cfm?election_id=45

    • Who cares if he’s getting money from other places. All politicians get money from places outside of Los Angeles. Forever 21 is Korean owned, a family that started a multi-million bushiness in Highland Park, while everyone else with a business abandoned the place years ago. All you guys are outsiders to me.

      I was born at Queen of Angeles Hospital, went to Belmont High, CSUN my mom worked at the Gigna Emergency room. Most of the people here now are transplants. This district needs long term businesses that will bring long more tax revenue to rebuild the infrastructure here.

      O’Farrell may now every street corner but the street corner’s look like Sh^t. He needs to step up his game because this place looks exactly the same way it did when I grew up granted there are a few more clean buildings.

      • Sounds to me as if someone forgot their medicine this morning.

        • Sure, I need to take medicine.
          Echo Park doesn’t need another political hack who has been waiting for his 15 minutes. Echo Park needs someone who can truly be business friendly and focus on core services.
          Businesses and investors need an easier time to create responsible construction.

          Back in the late 90’s and early 00’s I worked with an investor to buy 25 rental properties in Echo park. We removed over 35 families paying an average of $600 in a neglected building and renovating them for people who live there now. The City made it hard for us secure permits and inspections , I don’t need someone talking about working for a do nothing Councilman for 10 years. Because if you worked for that councilman then you share some blame for the crappy polices that exist today.

          I’m no Choi supporter but at least he can grasp the need for more Public Works projects.

          • Don’t you just hate it when you have to remove over 35 families at an average of $600? And the city made you secure permits and inspections? You don’t say! Your elitist boohoo story does not work. It’s people like you that vote for candidates such as John Choi, thus setting the stage for crappy policies.

          • Political Watchdog

            Is public works projects all that Choi is going to bring to the table.
            I was also born at the old Queen of Angels Hospital. Who cares?!
            Mitch is endorsed by the Echo Park Chamber of Commerce for a reason. Many small businesses in Echo Park and Silver Lake support Mitch, he knows our community, he knows small business, he is aware of services that the community needs, he has real-world business experience, and activist experience! He’s also helped many small businesses from East Hollywood to Atwater to Echo Park. Read the Mitch Plan here: http://www.mitchforcitycouncil.org/plan
            Do you wake up every morning in a miserable state just because you thing the street corners look like shit, or do you get out and try to do something about it. I have been involved with thousands of neighborhood clean ups over the past 20 years, and that includes cleaning up other people’s neighborhoods, too. If you want to deny all the positive change that has happened in Atwater Village, Elysian Valley, Echo Park, Glassell Park, Silver Lake and Hollywood go ahead and deny it. But people are flocking to these neighborhoods because they are some of the coolest, trendiest and most vibrant neighborhoods in the state. Of course there’s more work t be done, this is Los Angeles. What you talkin’ ’bout, Willis?!!!

          • why in the world would you boast about this? maybe i’m reading it wrong, but sounds like you’re complaining about the hoops you had to jump through before you could kick out low income families and raise the rents.

            and the nerve of the city making you get your properties inspected to make sure they were up to code. shocking.

      • I don’t know who you are…

        we moved into district thirteen ten years ago, it was the worst intersection in the city of los angeles.

        today, it is a thriving community!

        so…that is my experience with Mitch!

        Since he left office so he could prepare for this election, the council district 13 has literally fallen apart!! No one in the office knows what they are talking about, and we haven’t gotten one thing done for the community.

        I want Mitch back!!

  16. Found it! Here’s the link to Choi’s introducing himself to a neighborhood meeting. I think all you need to know to make up your mind is here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9RgCiY2ZTc

  17. Thanks Sandy. I love the first question he gets! (not his response though. Horrible.) This question comes at approximately the 5 min mark if you can’t stand listening to his empty opening.

    I received so many mailers from John Choi that I was immediately turned off. Hearing that he had just moved into the district also sent up red flags. Not what I want from a city council member.

  18. Mitch for me!



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