Richelle Huizar Quits City Council Race

District 14 Councilman José Huizar and Richelle Huizar.

DTLA—Richelle Huizar, the wife of embattled Downtown City Councilman José Huizar, this afternoon relinquished her campaign to replace her husband on the panel when he is termed out in 2020. 

The move comes in the wake of a string of embarrassing episodes for José Huizar, including a pair of lawsuits filed by former employees, FBI raids of his City Hall office and the family’s Boyle Heights home, and the councilman being stripped of his council committee assignments.

Huizar's in Trouble. Cue the Vultures

Richelle Huizar had announced her candidacy on Sept. 13, and had held a pair of fundraisers in Downtown Los Angeles. The primary election is in March 2020, with a runoff, if necessary, that November.

“Today, I am announcing my withdrawal as a candidate for City Council in order to focus on my family,” Richelle Huizar said in a prepared statement. “I am eternally grateful for the support that I have received since announcing our campaign in September. I look forward to continuing to work on issues I’m passionate about and staying involved in improving our communities.”

The Quest for House Huizar

Richelle Huizar and the councilman had been laying the groundwork for her campaign for more than a year before she entered the race. She had frequently accompanied José Huizar to business and community events.

Richelle Huizar has worked in the past as an attorney specializing in family law and has served on a number of boards. She was on the city’s Commission on the Status of Women, and only stepped down in recent weeks.

Questions have surrounded her campaign since last month, when two former female employees accused José Huizar of harassment and retaliation. They also alleged that the councilman had engaged in an extramarital affair separate from one he acknowledged in 2014.

FBI Searches Huizar's Home, Office

On Nov. 7, the FBI raided the councilman’s fourth floor City Hall office and the family’s home in Boyle Heights, as well as a Boyle Heights field office. FBI agents were seen leaving the home and the City Hall office with boxes, bagged items and electronic equipment. No charges have been filed and no arrests have been made. The FBI has confirmed that the IRS is involved in the investigation.

On Nov. 15, Council President Herb Wesson took the unprecedented step of stripping Huizar of his committee assignments, including his role as chair of the powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

Richelle Huizar never publicly commented on her husband’s situation or its impact on her campaign.

José Huizar had not been seen in City Hall for more than a week until he returned Tuesday. He brushed off questions from reporters about the lawsuits and the FBI raids, frequently repeating, “I’m here to do my job.”

Richelle Huizar’s departure from the campaign opens the door for other prominent candidates to enter the race. District observers have speculated that state Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, whose district includes Downtown, could run, as could former state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon. De Leon just lost a campaign for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Dianne Feinstein.

The 14th District includes Downtown, Boyle Heights and portions of Northeast Los Angeles.

Copyright 2018 Los Angeles Downtown News