31-Year-Old Activist and CPA Leads Race for Los Angeles Controller

Kenneth Mejia, a 31-year-old certified public accountant and housing justice activist, took the lead in the primary for Los Angeles controller Tuesday evening with 37.75% of the early vote, with Councilman Paul Koretz behind him with 25.6%.

With neither likely to receive more than 50% of the vote with six candidates running, the two will likely compete in a November runoff.

The initial results released by the Los Angeles County Registrar/County Clerk represent ballots returned through Monday.

Mejia ran a grassroots campaign and touted his 11 years of accounting and auditing experience, saying it gives him the technical experience to be controller.

During his campaign, he published resources for Angelenos including maps of affordable housing units, LAPD traffic and pedestrians stops and frequently ticketed parking spots. He was endorsed by the Sunrise Movement Los Angeles, Youth Climate Strike Los Angeles, the Working Families Party, Healthcare for All Los Angeles, Grassroots Law Project, Ground Game L.A. and more.

While the controller does not have a say in the city’s budget, Mejia has called during his campaign for the city to divest from the LAPD and invest instead in communities, housing and mental health programs. He has highlighted the city’s $3.1 billion LAPD budget, which includes pensions, on billboards, and compared it to significantly smaller investments in homelessness, transportation and housing.

Koretz has served in the Los Angeles City Council since 2009. He represents District 5, which includes parts of the Santa Monica Mountains, Bel Air, Century City, Westwood, Palms, Pico-Robertson and the Fairfax District. He also served on the California Assembly and West Hollywood City Council.

His run for controller was endorsed by the L.A. County Democratic Party, the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters, Unite Here Local 11, and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, United Farm Workers, the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association and more.

The city’s current controller Ron Galperin, who has served in the role since 2013, is seeking to become state controller.

The Los Angeles Controller serves as a paymaster and chief accounting officer for the city. The controller also educates Angelenos about the city’s spending, including through audits.

Galperin’s reports have focused on city employees misusing city resources, the increasing cost of homeless housing built through Proposition HHH, ways to improve the city’s 311 program with a customer-first approach, problems plaguing the city’s program for repairing sidewalks and the need for further oversight of Los Angeles Fire Department overtime requests at COVID-19 testing sites.

Along with Mejia and Koretz, running to succeed Galperin as controller are CFO and Assistant Director of the Department of Public Works’ Bureau of Street Services Stephanie Clements; Los Angeles Unified School District teacher J. Carolan O’Gabhann; and Reid Lidow, a former executive officer to Mayor Eric Garcetti; and attorney and auditor David Vahedi.

Clements trailed the two early frontrunners with 18.32% of the vote, followed by Vahedi with 6.7%, Lidow with 4.67%, and O’Gabhann with 4.13%.

City Attorney’s Office spokesman Rob Wilcox had been running for the spot, but withdrew from the race. Wilcox, who was on the ballot when they were sent out, received 2.83% of the vote in the initial results.

Meanwhile, the race for Los Angeles city attorney was much closer as initial results were released.

Those vying to replace Mike Feuer are Deputy City Attorney Richard Kim; California Democratic Party Treasurer Teddy Kapur; civil rights attorney Faisal M. Gill, who previously served as policy director for the Department of Homeland Security; former conservative talk radio host and former president of the Los Angeles Board of Public Works Kevin James; federal prosecutor Marina Torres; financial law attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto; and Deputy City Attorney Sherri Onica Valle Cole.

Early results showed Torres in the lead with 20.56%, followed by Kim with 19.83%, Feldstein Soto with 19.68%, Gill with 19.53%, James with 9.89%, Kapur with 5.53% and Cole with 4.99%.

The Los Angeles city attorney leads the office that prosecutes misdemeanors, files lawsuits on behalf of the city and represents L.A. in legal matters, including lawsuits filed against the city. The city attorney is also responsible for writing laws requested by the City Council.

Feuer is termed out of the office he has held since 2013. So far in 2022, Feuer has filed lawsuits against the operator of the vacation rental platform Vrbo for allegedly processing rental bookings for unregistered hosts, against the agricultural chemical and biotechnology company Monsanto for allegedly polluting the city’s waterways with a carcinogen and against the owners of a North Hollywood apartment complex where a local gang allegedly roams freely.

Feuer had been running for mayor, but dropped out of the race after ballots were already sent to voters.

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