LA Council District 15 Voter’s Guide: McOsker vs. Sandoval

McOsker, a longtime San Pedro resident, has a background in local government, having served as the City Atty’s chief aide at the time. James Hahn from 1997 to 2001. When Hahn was elected mayor, McOsker moved to the mayor’s office, serving for four years as Hahn’s chief of staff. He worked with Hahn on the hiring of a new police chief – William Bratton – and the campaign to defeat a ballot proposal that would have allowed the San Fernando Valley to secede from Los Angeles and form its own city.

Despite these accomplishments, this period was difficult for the Hahn administration. State and federal prosecutors conducted investigations into the contracts at City Hall, which resulted in the conviction of one of Hahn’s airport commissioners for bribery. The directors of a company were also condemned for having overcharged the Ministry of Water and Energy.

After Hahn lost re-election, McOsker joined a high-powered law firm, picking up a number of clients with business in town. As a registered lobbyist, he has represented property developers, a hotel association, contractors and the union that represents rank and file police officers. In 2018, he became CEO of AltaSea, a non-profit organization focused on science, ocean sustainability, and job creation at the Port of Los Angeles. He also sits on the board of Linc Housing, which builds affordable housing, and other nonprofits.

Sandoval has also been politically active, serving on two neighborhood councils – one based in downtown San Pedro, the other in the Harbor City neighborhood of Los Angeles. She was also a member of the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates, which produces recommendations for city spending.

A Harbor City resident, Sandoval highlighted this volunteer work and discussed the economic hardships she faced as a working mother and entrepreneur. One of his businesses was Caliente Cantina, a restaurant that opened in downtown San Pedro in 2014 and closed within a year.

Sandoval’s business history came back to haunt her during the campaign, after The Times reported that the state labor commissioner discovered that Cantina Investments LLC, a company Sandoval helped set up, failed to pay four restaurant employees – a violation commonly referred to as wage theft. Sandoval initially distanced himself from the company, then said he fired some of his employees for theft and drug use. After several supporters rescinded their endorsements, Sandoval apologized and began negotiating payment for those workers.

During the campaign, Sandoval criticized McOsker for his lobbying work and the political support he received from real estate groups. McOsker, in turn, sent letters to voters focusing on Sandoval’s salary theft issues — and the endorsers who fled his campaign after learning of those cases.

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