Hydee Feldstein Soto and Faisal Gill vie for votes to become LA City Attorney on Nov. 8

The Nov. 8 race for Los Angeles City Attorney pits Hydee Feldstein Soto against Faisal Gill, who was the top vote-getter in the June statewide direct primary election.

Feldstein Soto, who received 112,978 votes, squeaked into second place over Marina Torres by just 36 votes, while 317,000 city residents voted for other candidates who didn’t make it into the runoff.

Feldstein Soto is seen as a moderate candidate while Gill is a progressive seeking an elected post in Los Angeles City Hall.

The next city attorney, who is elected for a four-year term, could set the pace for the city’s approach to homelessness, affordable housing, public safety and other pressing issues. She or he will replace City Attorney Mike Feuer who is termed out after serving two terms.

The next city attorney becomes the city government’s internal lawyer and is also the city’s criminal prosecutor — but for misdemeanor violations only, such as homelessness issues that unfold on city streets.

Attorney Feldstein Soto has raised $1.3 million, compared to attorney Gill’s $2.1 million. His $2.1 million includes $1.6 million in personal loans to himself, according to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.

“It’s a significant amount of my money ($1.6 million),” Gill said. “I believe in my vision for the city attorney office and my candidacy, so I’m putting my money where my mouth is. My opponent could have done the same thing, but she chose not to.”

Feldstein Soto has criticized Gill for accepting federal PPE (Paycheck Protection Program) money supplied to struggling businesses during the pandemic, while he was funneling cash into his campaign. She called it “not completely trustworthy.”

Gill explained recently, “In 2020 at the height of the pandemic, my law firm was struggling as many small businesses were and we did not have a single paying client for six months. …  We took a small PPP loan of $20,833.32 to cover our office rent during that period and complied with all applicable rules, just like countless other struggling small businesses did during that time.”

Neither candidate has been elected to public office. Gill ran unsuccessfully for legislative seats in both Virginia and Vermont. Feldstein Soto has never run for office.

Gill, 50, a criminal attorney, civil litigator and former Republican, switched parties 15 years ago after experiencing discrimination as a Muslim. He argues that Feldstein Soto, 64, is not a litigator, making him the best person for the job. But Feldstein Soto responds that Gill’s outlook on the limited powers of the city attorney’s office are not always based in reality.

“When he says he’s going to prosecute police officers for excess force or city council members for corruption — he can’t do that,” she said, explaining the strict limitations on the Los Angeles City Attorney. “The city attorney can’t sue his own client.”

Even so, both candidates want to root out crime and corruption.

Gill warns that “Development is where a lot of the corruption takes place. … Especially when you have developers who are family members, council members’ friends, donors. I want to make sure the rules are followed and everything is above-board.”

Feldstein Soto says the city attorney position calls for managing large transactions and commercial contracts and indentures, managing the city’s teams of litigators in the civil and criminal justice worlds, and working with diverse clients who speak with different voices.

Feldstein Soto said in a recent interview, “I come to this job with breath and a depth of experience in the legal world. …  I have managed other lawyers, as a practice group leader and a department group leader at my firm, and have had leadership positions in the profession generally. I am somebody who comes to this office with the ability to do the job on day one.”

“I have lived here for 40 years so I know the city well and I come to this job purely as a matter of public service,” she said. “At my age, this is a capstone to a legal career, not a stepping stone on a political ladder.”

Gill migrated from Pakistan to the East Coast with his family in 1980 when he was 8 years old, and graduated from American University Law School in Washington DC. He lived in L.A. from 2008 to 2015, returned to the East for work, then settled in L.A. in 2018.

Feldstein Soto was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she spoke Spanish at home with her family and English at school. She moved to the U.S. to attend college at age 17, and then went on to earn her law degree at the Columbia University School of Law.

Both agree that the cost of providing housing at affordable prices is one of the top issues facing city leaders today.

“The city attorney signs off on every city contract of $5,000 or more,” Feldstein Soto said. “We are putting out 20 percent of construction costs and saying to each applicant-developer ‘Go raise the other 80 percent on your own.’ In the current financial environment, that is just not working very well.”

Both candidates also see public safety and the unhoused population as top issues. Gill and Feldstein Soto say they believe that Los Angeles County and the city of Los Angeles need to work together to provide permanent supportive services and housing for the homeless.