With the March 30 conviction of Mark Ridley-Thomas of federal corruption charges, Heather Hutt—who has been filling in the seat pending the outcome of the trial— becomes District 10’s official caretaker as members of the City Council must determine what to do with the now vacant seat.
“While the federal legal process is continuing, and Mr. Ridley-Thomas may choose to pursue his right to appeal, his office nonetheless has now become vacant as a matter of law as provided by Section 207(a) of the Charter of the City of Los Angeles,” L.A. City Council President Paul Krekorian said in a statement.
“While charges against Mr. Ridley-Thomas were pending, the Council appointed Heather Hutt to hold the office of council member for District 10 for so long as the temporary vacancy continues to exist. Because the vacancy of this office is no longer temporary but is now permanent, Ms. Hutt’s temporary appointment is no longer in force, and the Council must decide what action, if any, to take to address this vacancy.”
Set to convene on April 11, the L.A. City Council can appoint Hutt to fill out the remainder of Ridley-Thomas’ term—which is set to expire on December 31, 2024 or they can hold a special election to fill the seat.
Krekorian has indicated that he hopes to appoint Hutt. Some local community leaders and residents are calling for a special election. Among them is Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, who held a press conference calling on the City Council to allow for residents to have a say in who will speak for them.
“The people need a city councilmember that they elect, not one appointed by the City Council,” Hutchinson said. “We’ve seen too much of that. The Tenth District has been disenfranchised for over two years. They have not had a voice…they have not had a say in who their elected representative is. That is not democracy. The Los Angeles City Council should not be in the position to pick and choose a representative. That is for the people. So, we’re calling on the City Council to have a special election.”
Hutchinson is not alone.
“Here we go again with the same bureaucratic stuff”, said David Miller who lives in the district and serves as co-publisher of Our Weekly Newspaper. “I think there should be an election simply because that is not our voice. It’s unfair to the people.”
Longtime Leimert Park resident Levi Jacob also agreed.
“Will Heather Hutt feel more loyal to those on the City Council who appointed her? Given that we didn’t vote her in, she may not feel any allegiance to us, and I believe we’re getting a raw deal,” Jacob stated. “Further, former Council President Nury Martinez got a lot of flack for not holding community forums to determine what the residents wanted, why should the City Council get to take action without hearing from us? Why would people not elected by us get to choose for us?”
Other residents are happy to see Hutt remain in the position. Among them is Lori Condinus of the National Action Network LA, who spoke during a press conference of residents who were in favor of Hutt filling out the remainder of Ridley-Thomas’ term.
“It is critical as a black woman to keep her in this seat,” Condinus said. “We are underrepresented in government. We need her voice. We need her hard work. She’s done extraordinary things in six months. We declare and demand that the council appoint her to this seat and to not waste any money on an unneeded election at this time.”
“Here we are as women in color in particular trying to keep a Black woman in place,” adding Jasmyne Cannick, a journalist, advocate and resident of CD10. “We’re saying that she’s doing the job. Why would we remove her? This is about the caretaking of a very precious district—a very diverse district. A district of people that need to be looked after. This is not political. This is common sense. Why would we waste money? Why would we waste the time. The people of Council District 10 will have the opportunity to say who they want to be their leader in less than a year. For the time being Heather is a very capable woman. She’s a very capable person to lead our district.”
Last month, Hutt announced that she was putting her hat in the race to represent City Council District 10 in the 2024 election, telling constituents that she was committed to making a stronger and better CD10
“I take this responsibility seriously because this is where I live,” Hutt said. “This is the district where my mother raised me and I, in turn, raised my children. I am proud to be a resident of CD10 and proud of the work I’ve done in the past six months in CD10, but my work is not done.”
To win, Hutt will have to beat Community leader, attorney, and former Los Angeles City Commissioner, Grace Yoo, who has announced her run for Los Angeles City Council, District 10. Yoo was the runner-up in the 2020 election against Ridley-Thomas.
“We are eager to start the door-knocking and backyard gatherings all across the district to get more voters to know me,” Yoo said in a statement on Facebook. “We will challenge the status quo and bring much-needed change to the district for the people.”
Also running is Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer. The 66-year-old legislator—who terms out of the Assembly in 2024— represents the 57th district which encompasses parts of downtown Los Angeles, including Skid Row, Exposition Park-USC, and portions of South Los Angeles and serves as chair of the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee and a member of the California Reparations Task Force.