Two outsider candidates — neither of whom had high name recognition in the world of local politics before entering the race — are vying to become Los Angeles city attorney, a critical but often overlooked role with wide-ranging responsibilities.
The city attorney handles the prosecution of all misdemeanor crimes that happen in Los Angeles, including petty theft, vandalism, DUI, some domestic violence charges and other offenses that carry a maximum penalty of a year in jail.
Another part of the job, which has been held by Mike Feuer for nine years, involves giving legal advice to the mayor and City Council, as well as city boards and departments, including the Los Angeles Police Department. As general counsel, the office also defends the city in litigation.
Who are the candidates?
Faisal Gill and Hydee Feldstein Soto, who, respectively, came in first and second in the seven-person race in the June primary, are now facing off.
Gill, a civil rights attorney, was 8 when his family emigrated from Pakistan. Raised in Virginia, he eventually joined the U.S. Navy as an officer in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps and served as a senior policy advisor in the Department of Homeland Security.
A former Republican, Gill says he turned away from the party years ago after experiencing discrimination for his Muslim faith and that he quickly became a "staunch Democrat." Positioned as the more progressive candidate in the race, Gill has said that, if elected, he will focus on holding the Los Angeles police accountable and implementing criminal justice reform.
Feldstein Soto, a finance law attorney and former neighborhood council member, was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. After getting her law degree, she moved to Los Angeles in 1982 and went on to build a career overseeing multibillion-dollar public deals.
A lifelong registered Democrat — a detail she's often repeated on the campaign trail — Feldstein Soto says her managerial experience, as well as years working as a transactional lawyer make her the best fit for the job.
Where they stand on housing and homelessness
Gill has said that he believes Section 41.18 of the municipal code — the anti-camping law approved by the City Council last year — is unconstitutional and that he won't enforce it.
If elected, he said, he also plans to crack down on people violating the city's rules for renting out homes on sites such as Airbnb, a practice he says hurts the city's housing stock and leads to inflated rent prices.
Feldstein Soto has said she dislikes that 41.18 is enforced differently in various parts of the city and that she would work to standardize how it is handled. She has said she believes the ordinance is constitutional, so long as people are given a credible offer of housing or shelter.
She has laid out a multiprong strategy for addressing homelessness, including streamlining the building approval process and scrutinizing a decades-old agreement with the county to ensure that the city is getting its fair slice of public health funds.
What they've said about their first 100 days
During a virtual candidate forum, the candidates were asked what they hoped to accomplish in their first 100 days.
Gill said that, among other things, he plans to focus on criminal justice reform, saying he will implement a 100-day pause on filing misdemeanors to study whether the office should change its charging practices.
“What I want to do," Gill said, "is have a review period to see what we should be prosecuting and what we shouldn't be prosecuting."
Feldstein Soto said that early in her tenure she will focus on meeting with staff in her office, as well as having conversations with people in various city departments and offices she would be working alongside.
“I tend to come into new places softly,” she said. “I assume that there are career professionals there, I assume that there are people who have views on what is working and what is not.”
L.A. Times Editorial Board Endorsements
The Times’ editorial page publishes endorsements based on candidate interviews and independent reporting. The editorial board operates independently of the newsroom — reporters covering these races have no say in the endorsements.
How and where to vote
Ballots will be in the mail to all 22 million registered voters in the state no later than Oct. 10. Californians can return ballots by mail, drop them at collection boxes or turn them in at voting centers. They can also cast ballots early at voting centers or wait until Nov. 8 to vote at their neighborhood polling places.
Californians can register to vote or check their status at https://registertovote.ca.gov/.
Follow more election coverage
California voters head to the polls Nov. 8 to vote for U.S. Senate, governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, controller, treasurer, attorney general, and races for U.S. representative in Congress, state senator and state Assemblymember. Local races include who will be the Los Angeles mayor and L.A. County sheriff. There are seven ballot propositions for voters to decide on the table.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.