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‘You cannot get close to’ Kevin de León at his high-security election party

Shortly after 11 p.m., Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de Leon's face appeared on the television inside El Sereno Restaurant and the crowd inside Hecho en Mexico could be heard roaring. It was his Super Tuesday watch party, and supporters had been rooting for his comeback for years.

Nearly 18 months ago, a secretly recorded conversation between De Leon and three Los Angeles political figures, featuring a bigoted and conspiratorial rant, was made public and turned into political carcass. However, early financial reports showed de León leading the re-election race. Former state Senate majority leader, unsuccessful Senate race and survivor of Los Angeles mayor's recall plan calls for resignation from Los Angeles streets to the White House, gets into an altercation with a community activist at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony and is stripped naked. About committee assignments by colleagues trying to get him to resign.

No labor unions, elected officials, or key community leaders publicly supported de Leon. It didn't matter. Opponents underestimated the grit and cunning of a man who grew up poor, was active in the labor and immigrant rights movements, and had no intention of quitting the good life as a politician. Wokosos I screamed at him. Last year, instead of the blind ambition for high office that had characterized much of his career, de Leon finally began to focus on meat-and-potatoes issues: cleaning streets, organizing food drives, helping the homeless. The focus was on securing shelter for the victims. He pounded the proverbial pavement and sent out a plethora of city-funded de Leon-branded mailers highlighting local resources and events. LA Public Press — that the U.S. Postal Service should give him a medal.

As I jogged toward Hecho en Mexico, I heard cheers for de Leon. I was late. I spent that night walking around the East Side, visiting the dead homes of three of his chief rivals.

In Eagle Rock, Rep. Wendy Carrillo and volunteers danced to upbeat tunes such as “Despacito” and Selena's “Bidi Bidi Bon Bon” at a small campaign headquarters. Even if Serena came in 4th place. Isabel Jurado's supporters shared drinks at a hip Highland Park bar while Reese Witherspoon's cult classic “Election” played on small televisions. Congressman Miguel Santiago, who held second place to Mr. Jurado by less than 300 votes when he returned from Casa Fina in Boyle Heights, has donated more than $500,000 in independent spending on his behalf. He expressed his gratitude to the labor union, which is equivalent to an alphabet soup. . He then said, “After you drink, give me a ride home,” making the audience laugh. This is a subtle reference to Carrillo's recent DUI conviction.

I saved de Leon's fiesta for last, in part because his camp did not announce the location as they did in Carrillo, Jurado, and Santiago. Even though the official program ended 30 minutes earlier, Hecho en México was still packed. As I was about to enter, a burly, bespectacled man with a grumpy face blocked me. It was Pete Brown, de Leon's communications director.

“This is a private event,” he said. I flashed my press badge, but Brown didn't budge or explain why media wasn't allowed in. That's when he noticed that the lectern and tables were blocking easy access to the restaurant. Soon two strong men gathered around Brown. Then, a group of women lined up next to me. they. This was the funniest lockdown since the last time I played Battleship.

I took a few steps back to the sidewalk and thought about what to do next. Immediately, two security guards stood next to me and laughed. One person said to me in Spanish: “They told us, 'Who's that guy with the glasses? Don't let him in.'

Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de Leon (center) greets people waiting in line for food distribution outside his Eagle Rock office in 2023.

(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

For months, I've been asking Brown and de Leon's chief of staff, Jennifer Barraza, for an interview with de Leon to talk about the tape leak and my recent series on Latino political power in Los Angeles. I requested it many times. They surprised me, even though their bosses spoke freely to my Times colleagues and other journalists. From what I hear, De Leon and his team are angry with me. Because I have repeatedly said that he should have resigned after the tape leaked, and I have also criticized his tendency to win a seat and then run for something more powerful.

It's bad for politicians to refuse to talk to the press, but it happens. It is pathetic to do so on an election night that is supposed to demonstrate the prosperity of our democracy, with a free press as a cog in the engine.

If De León doesn't allow the press into the party and gets mad at people who want to weigh in on me because I wrote mean things about him, then that means he's been boring for the past year and a half. It shows that you haven't learned anything other than that. . Even former Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva (whom I abused throughout 2022 as his career imploded) was always responsive to my questions and, even on his fiasco the first night of the year. There was never a ban on appearances.When a supposedly progressive figure like de Leon makes Villanueva look good anythinghe needs to take a deep breath and think about where it all went wrong.

Paul, who is so weak and thin-skinned, has no right to be in City Hall. Mr. Santiago is bent on slamming his former ally Mr. de León, given that 73% of voters in the district chose someone else in early elections.

I decided to stay outside Hecho en México and talk to de León supporters. They walked past me as if I were a pet coot or looked at me with disdain from inside the restaurant as if I were a chupacabra. The only person who spoke at length to me was a man named Arturo. I didn't know his last name because he called me “.” Gusano (literally “bug,” but also interpreted as a Cuban-Spanish slur meaning “traitor”) and “f— a—” to complain about de Leon’s column I wrote in 2018. and claimed that the Times was anti-Latino and had hired me just for that purpose. I could trash Latinos and claim I wasn't allowed inside because I was a “party slut.”

Other than that, we had a nice chat.

The party erupted when they noticed Fox 11 reporter Christy Fajardo preparing to appear on camera. Fajardo — One of the board members of the National Congressional Hispanic Journalists thought that perhaps he had misunderstood what Brown had said to me. She approached him and asked if she could come in.

no. Thanks for trying, Kristy! And thank you for telling me to be there for you when you were about to do a show with De Leon.

The man of the night finally appeared, wearing a dark blue suit, a shirt of the same tone with the top button on the chest undone, and a dazzling smile on his face. Brown joined him, as did another man who stood next to an older guard and glared at me. As I started taking photos, a young security guard approached me.

“you Can not Come closer,” he told me sharply, asking me to get off the sidewalk. I reminded him that the sidewalk is public property and repeated what I had said. I was there to do my job, not to cause a scene – it was being done by de Leon's people – and I understood he was just following orders. I was there.

The guard lowered his balaclava. A look of pain and guilt crossed his face. “Just stay away from me, okay?” he finally snapped.

De Leon answered the interview without a care in the world, grinning and gesturing. As he turned to go back inside, I yelled, “How are you feeling?”

He winked and said nothing.

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