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Labor Heavyweight Maria Elena Durazo Will Run for Kevin de León’s State Senate Seat


Maria Elena Durazo, who served for years as the leader of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor before stepping down in 2014, said Thursday she will make the jump into electoral politics and run for state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León's seat representing parts of Los Angeles when he is termed out in 2018.

Durazo was widely considered one of the most powerful figures in Los Angeles politics when she gave up her labor post to become a vice president of Unite Here, a union representing hospitality workers in the United States and Canada.

The county labor federation reached new heights of power during Durazo's tenure, helping elect a bevy of labor-friendly candidates to the Los Angeles City Council and the county Board of Supervisors. She also scored numerous legislative wins, including a minimum wage law requiring some large Los Angeles hotels to pay workers at least $15.37 an hour.

But Durazo, who has served as a vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee since 2013, had never before displayed a desire to run for public office, opting instead for a behind-the-scenes role.

"It was not a long time coming — in fact, I've always felt very strong about not doing that," she told The Times on Thursday. "At times people urged me or suggested it, but I always felt it wasn't the place for me."

She credits the election of President Trump with changing her mind.

"I think things are changing in this country; obviously the Trump administration is doing things I consider very bad," she said. "I just never imagined him getting elected and pushing for these things."

Durazo is the first candidate to announce a campaign to represent the 24th State Senate District, which De León, a fellow Democrat, first won in 2010. The diverse district stretches from East Los Angeles through Boyle Heights, part of downtown Los Angeles, Highland Park, Mount Washington and Eagle Rock, into Silver Lake and Echo Park. Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Armenia and Thai Town also fall within the district.

Nearly 60% of voters in the district are Democrats, and 27% are registered as having no party preference. Just 8.9% are Republicans.

Durazo said she will highlight her accomplishments during her time with the labor movement but also take into account the viewpoints of business interests.

"I've invested practically my whole life in Los Angeles and California to change the environment, to make it a positive environment for progressive policies and at the same time not be too crazy — and take in business needs," she said.

Though she is making her first run for public office, Durazo said her years listening to workers and organizing them will help her as she builds a coalition in the district.

"I don't pretend to know everything; I don't pretend to be the great savior," she said. "I do think I come with experience, with helping people help themselves."

LA Times 4/6


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