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.”