Key LA leaders face political fallout for racist remarks

Oct 12, 2022, 1:07 PM | Updated: 5:56 pm
Los Angeles City Council member Kevin de Leon sits in chamber before starting the Los Angeles City ...

Los Angeles City Council member Kevin de Leon sits in chamber before starting the Los Angeles City Council meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022 in Los Angeles. The three Los Angeles City Council members at the center of a scandal over a recording of racist comments have each had long, influential careers in state and local politics. Now, those careers could soon come to an abrupt end as Kevin de Leon, Nury Martinez and Gil Cedillo face enormous pressure to resign -- including from President Joe Biden. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

(AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The three Los Angeles City Council members at the center of a scandal over a recording of racist comments have all had long, influential careers in state and local politics.

Those careers are now in jeopardy as Kevin de Leon, Nury Martinez and Gil Cedillo face enormous backlash to comments, made nearly a year ago, that were revealed this week.

The recording captured a crude conversation between the three council members and a powerful labor union leader that included language to mock their colleagues while discussing the city’s redistricting process.

Martinez resigned from the council Monday. De Leon and Cedillo have not resigned, despite calls to do so from numerous groups and politicians, including President Joe Biden.


Known simply as “KDL,” de Leon has been a force in California politics for decades. Born in Los Angeles to immigrant parents, de Leon got his start organizing against Proposition 187, an ultimately unsuccessful initiative that sought to bar immigrants living in the country without legal permission from using state services.

He was elected to the Legislature in 2006, rising to become the leader of the state Senate, a powerful position that gave him a major say in decisions about the state’s budget and policies.

In 2017, de Leon made the brazen decision to challenge veteran U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, setting up a bitter intraparty fight that he would ultimately lose. He soon got elected to the Los Angeles City Council in 2020. He ran for mayor this year but finished third in the primary behind businessperson Rick Caruso and U.S. Rep. Karen Bass.


Born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, Martinez is a veteran of Los Angeles-area local governments.

Martinez got her start on the San Fernando City Council, where she was first elected in 2003 and also served as mayor. She got elected to the Los Angeles Unified School District board in 2009, helping to run the second largest district in the nation. While there, she battled unions over policies to make it easier to fire teachers in sexual misconduct cases.

In 2013, Martinez got elected to the Los Angeles City Council, replacing Tony Cárdenas, who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She helped pass a law raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously chose Martinez as president, a position she assumed in 2020, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. She oversaw the city’s response, including setting up a renters’ assistance program. She resigned her seat Wednesday.


Cedillo rose to prominence as the leader of Los Angeles County’s largest union in the early 1990s, but he lost the job in a power struggle with the union’s board, the Los Angeles Times reported.

He got elected to the Legislature in 1998, where he was known for his futile attempts to pass a law allowing people who were not U.S. citizens to get driver’s licenses from the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Former Gov. Jerry Brown finally did sign that law in 2013, after Cedillo had left the Legislature.

Cedillo was more successful with the California Dream Act, which lets some students who are not U.S. citizens qualify for some financial aid and other scholarships.

Cedillo left the Legislature in 2012 because of term limits but was elected to the Los Angeles City Council in 2013. He served two terms and was trying to have at least one more, but he lost in the primary election this summer to community activist Eunisses Hernandez. Cedillo will leave office in January, but many have called on him to resign immediately following the recording of the racist comments.

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Key LA leaders face political fallout for racist remarks