Council District 13 candidates face off as campaign heads for the finish*

Cramming For A Debate: Canidates John Choi (left) and Mitch O’Farrell read up at school desks before debate begins in the auditorium of   Dorris Place Elementary.

Council District 13 rivals John Choi and Mitch O’Farrell on Tuesday night repeated some common themes during  a debate in the final week of the campaign, with O’Farrell touting his deep roots in the district and extensive knowledge of neighborhood issues while Choi called for a broader vision and the ability to work across council district boundaries to improve conditions for the 13th district.

Seated behind classroom desks topped with flowers and nameplates, Choi, a labor organizer and former Public Works Commissioner,  and O’Farrell, a former senior staffer for termed-councilman Eric Garcetti,  were cordial for the most part during the approximately 90-minute debate as they stood up to  respond to questions  in the auditorium of Dorris Place Elementary in Elysian Valley.  But there were at times signs of tension between the two candidates,  whose campaigns have traded charges of voter fraud and race-baiting in the final weeks before the May 21 city election.

After O’Farrell, who is half Native American and half Irish, said he would hire a staff that was reflective of the council district,  Choi, who is Korean-American,  pointed out one of his Latino campaign staff members and used him as an example of what to expect. “Mitch talked about hiring people who look like the district,” said Choi. “I really would be curious what his staff looks like right now … We  got folks who speak seven  different languages … That’s a different type of commitment to say that everyone in this community matters.”

O’Farrell responded by describing his campaign staff as a  “rainbow coalition”  who are not all white.  “It’s that type of subtle fomenting the racial divisions that is unbecoming of a leader,” O’Farrell said. “I just can’t stand for it any longer.”

The candidates also made efforts to distinguish themselves on their approach to government, with O’Farrell saying he would devote more staff to work in the field than at City Hall.  “I am an on-the-ground kind of guy,” O’Farrell said. “I will have more staff in the field than at City Hall.”

Choi, however, said focusing attention away from a City Hall staff would shortchange the district in the end. “I think it’s incredibly important to have a robust City Hall presence because those are the folks that move the gears of the bureaucracy in order to get resources for your district,” Choi said.

Despite some tense moments, the two candidates quickly shook hands at the end of the forum.

Choi said it was important to have a robust City Hall staff to help find resources for the district.

O’Farrell said he would hire more staff in the field than at City Hall to handle constituent services and quality-of-life issues.

Time keeper made sure the candidates stayed on schedule during the debate, which was organized by the Elysian Valley Riverside Neighborhood Council

* Correction:  A previous version of this story described O’Farrell as white.  That’s wrong or at least half wrong. O’Farrell his half white and half Native American.

“Mitch is 1/2 Native American (his maternal-grandfather, Mont Cotter, was a Chief of the Wyandotte Nation twice, and Mitch’s mother was a Princess of the Wyandotte Nation), and half Irish,” according to a campaign official. “He is very proud of his Native American heritage (he has actually been endorsed by Billy Friend, current Chief of the Wyandotte Nation).”

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  1. I don’t know. Does Choi even have a chance in this race?

  2. Mitch is the clear leader for our district in this race. John has a chance only because the DWP union is paying for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of advertising and mailers in his favor, distorting Mitch’s record and reputation. Take a look at the city ethics site for the numbers. For the primary, John paid $111 for each vote versus $38 for Mitch, and that doesn’t include the $238,000 spent on him by special interests. Even more money has poured in for John for the general election by these same special interests.

  3. Mitch is the clear leader “obviously” yeah right. If not all then most of the projects he has done have been with out Eric Garcetti it’s as if he wishes to be the next Eric. John in the other hand has been a leader and has shown that over and over again. Regardless if he moved year a few months back he has lived near our district for many years. Mitch moved into the district due to his job obviously and yes he might know LA but news flash LA is changing and we have a new generation of young people. They are the future therefore John Choi is the better candidates.

    • John Choi lived in Orange County, not “near” our district. He was drafted to run here as a way of opening up a spot in Orange County for another candidate some political leaders liked and making sure there was no bad blood between the two. They just didn’t expect so many strong candidates to run. Choi if you count Independent expenditures has spent over two million dollars while O’Farrell has spent less than three hundred thousand dollars..

  4. Jerry Malatesta

    Mitch has become the NIMBY candidate. The NIMBYs are advising him on this campaign. He will owe them, and they will own him when he wins. And they will come calling, telling him that they know his strengths and weaknesses as a candidate during re-election time. He’s a great guy, though.

    • When what we’re discussing are 800 units of housing in my back yard, and the destruction of the history of Los Angeles, and trying to preserve our cultural heritage, then yes, you can use the epithet “NIMBY” which really just stands for someone who is active and cares about their community and the environment they live in, rather than just attempting to secure profit for developers.

      John Choi is a self-serving, duplicitous, bullying gangster who couldn’t care less about CD 13 or representing the people who actually live here.

    • So what’s the difference between a NIMBY candidate (Mitch) and a UNION PUPPET (Choi)?

      Vote for the lesser of two evils… Mitch.

  5. Christopher Lemus

    Why is Los Angeles so scared of this newcomer as Mitch has labeled him. He’s a person just like us who knows how to do his job and do it well. I want to see change no the same work Eric has done for the past year. We need to move forward and get our economy going again those are the issues that working class people like myself care about. John is the ideal candidate and can deliver that.

    • What exactly does John Choi do that he manages to do so well?

    • What Mitch has been talking about is that Choi was interested in a political office in Orange County, but the powers that be preferred someone else. So he moved out here with their blessing to run for this seat. He has no connection to the area and once referred to the Marshall High School nickname as the “bulldogs.”

  6. The choice is clear: Mitch O’Farrell has spent the last 10 years executing another man’s vision for the city. John Choi has spent those same 10 years leading the charge for progressive ideals and working people. I have no doubt that Mitch is an honorable man, but he has allowed his message to be hijacked and his campaign to go off the rails. Voter fraud in Little Armenia? Racist mailers from a development LLC? “Outsider” and “New Arrivals”? I recently moved into CD13, only to be greeted by this isolationist narrative. Any man who embraces that is clearly unfit for leadership.

    I will be voting for John Choi on May 21st.


    The last I checked, John Choi hasn’t lived in quite awhile… He went to college at UCLA then afterwards worked in LA. So perhaps, Ted & crew you should all get your facts straight.

    • “The last I checked, John Choi hasn’t lived in quite awhile”

      What does that mean? Is Choi actually a zombie and not the puppet he appears to be? Or do you just mean he hasn’t been able to have any fun for awhile because of the horrible things he’s had to do to get all his money from developers?

      The pro-Choi comments on this page are oddly worded. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re all from the same IP address.

      I really doubt either candidate is going to turn the economy of the district around. All this basically comes down to is Choi will steamroll community input and build housing and ultrabright flashing billboards everywhere. O’Farrell might close a couple more streets and paint them with green polka dots.

      I moved to this area because it’s unique. I don’t want it to become like West LA or Orange County. I believe the term ‘Nimby’ originated when a site for a nuclear waste facility was having trouble finding citizens to accept its presence. I would rather have a nuclear waste facility built in District 13 than have Choi as my councilman.

  8. Choi and his union and democratic machine have rammed him down our districts throats which shows you how much they care about our district. This is a dynamic and influential district which needs to be represented by people who know its ins and out. That guy CHoi is worst possible CHOIce. Mitch knows and cares about the district. Choi is just an thug opportunist who would do anything his puppet masters tell him to. YOUR voice will be lost in the wind if he BUYS this election.

  9. As a union member my choice is clear, I dont want some puppet that is going to listen to major developers that interacted with the past councilmember. How about you?

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