LOS ANGELES - Assemblyman Miguel Santiago will challenge embattled City Councilman Kevin de León in next year's election, following de León's participation in a leaked, racist audio recording.
Santiago called running against a longtime ally and friend "a difficult decision but Los Angeles needs to heal and our neighborhoods are desperate for effective representation."
"The time for change in Los Angeles' 14th District is now," Santiago, D-Los Angeles, said in a statement released late Friday afternoon. "The current councilmember's refusal to respect the overwhelming calls to step down, from the people he is supposed to serve all the way to the president of the United States, is holding back the progress we need on homelessness, housing and the economic recovery we need in our neighborhoods."
There was no immediate response Friday night to calls and emails to de León's City Council office seeking a response to Santiago's announcement.
Santiago was elected to the Assembly in 2014 after being a member of Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees.
De León, then-Council President Nury Martinez, then-Councilman Gil Cedillo, and Ron Herrera, president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, were caught participating in a backroom conversation discussing ways to disenfranchise Black voters through a redistricting process and making racist comments that was secretly recorded and leaked to the news media.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a briefing Oct. 11, two days after the recording surfaced, 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," Jean-Pierre said. "It was appalling. They should all step down."
In the aftermath, Martinez resigned her council presidency, and then her seat altogether. Herrera also resigned his post, while Cedillo ultimately left the council at the end of his term after losing his bid for re-election in June.
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 de León failed last week to 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," de León in a statement regarding the failed recall attempt.
The primary election for the seat will be held in March and a runoff, if necessary, in November 2024.