LOS ANGELES—Kevin de León, who defiantly held onto his Los Angeles City Council seat despite persistent calls for his resignation following his participation in a racially charged recorded conversation that led to former Council President Nury Martinez’s resignation, said on Sept. 20 he plans to seek reelection in 2024.
He made the announcement in an interview with Politico, saying he is confident he still has support among his constituency.
“When a lot of people that I called my friends and allies turned away from me, my constituents had my back,” Mr. de León told Politico. “I understood in a deeper way the relationship that I had with my community and how that motivates and drives me. That’s why I’m still here. And that’s why I’m running.”
Two well-known local politicians—Assembly members Wendy Carrillo and Miguel Santiago—have already announced bids for the seat.
“Enough is enough. People are hurting. Kevin de León’s participation in the racist tapes scandal was so extreme that everybody from local constituents to President [Joe] Biden called for him to resign,” Mr. Santiago said in a statement Wednesday morning. “Council member de León should not be announcing his re-election today, he should be announcing his resignation.”
Mr. Santiago also accused Mr. de León of failing his district, citing a rise in homelessness and evictions in the 14th District, and calling city services in Mr. de León’s district “abysmal.”
In an interview with City News Service in June, Ms. Carrillo said she was running for the council seat in part due to the “circumstances and situation around the leaked audio recordings.”
She said District 14 has “unfortunately had two back-to-back council members that haven’t had the best reputation as of late,” alluding to the corruption scandal with Jose Huizar, the former council representative of the 14th District.
“[District] 14 is not an active partner in finding those solutions. [District] 14 is also the epicenter of our homelessness crisis in the country,” Ms. Carrillo added.
The leak of the audio recording almost one year ago revealed strategizing between Ms. Martinez, Mr. de León, then-Councilman Gil Cedillo, and L.A. County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera over how to protect the three councilors’ districts and elect more Latinos to the council.
They expressed frustration with proposed maps from the city’s 21-member redistricting commission. The three councilors discussed how they could create favorable districts for themselves while handing other colleagues unfavorable districts.
Since then, along with Ms. Martinez’s resignation, Mr. Cedillo lost his bid for reelection against Councilwoman Eunisses Hernandez, while Mr. Herrera resigned from his position.
Mr. de León previously stated the conversation was “wholly inappropriate; and I regret appearing to condone and even contribute to certain insensitive comments made about a colleague and his family in private.”
The leaked audio caused intense criticism and resulted in weeks of protest at City Hall. Angelenos from across the city sought Mr. de León’s resignation, including many elected officials.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a briefing Oct. 11, two days after the recording surfaced, that President Joe Biden was “glad to see one of the participants in that conversation has resigned, but they all should.”
“The language that was used and tolerated during that conversation was unacceptable,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said. “It was appalling. They should all step down.”
Mr. de León has defied continued calls for his resignation but has been stripped by the council of major committee assignments and largely shunned by council colleagues.
An attempt to recall Mr. de León failed in April because it did not receive the necessary number of signatures to qualify for the ballot.
“Through thick and thin, our community remains focused on the important battles at hand like homelessness, strengthening our local businesses, and protecting working families,” Mr. de León said regarding the failed recall attempt.
Although stripped of his committee assignments, Mr. de León has led presentations commemorating key figures or cultural events, and has passed motions with the help of a few of his colleagues.
The 14th District includes Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, downtown L.A., El Sereno, and parts of Northeast L.A.
The primary election for the seat will be held in March. If no one receives at least 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held in November.