Nithya Raman wins City Council seat for CD4

| December 2, 2020 | 0 Comments

COUNCILMEMBER-ELECT Nithya Raman with her twins.

 Taking nearly 53 percent of the vote, political newcomer Nithya Raman last month won a runoff election for the Fourth Council District seat against David Ryu, who became the first City Council incumbent in 17 years to be ousted by a challenger. 

“I congratulate my opponent on her victory,” Ryu said in a statement following his Nov. 6 concession. “I wish her success in continuing our shared goal of reform in local government and in serving our City.” 

In the other two most-local races, former County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas beat attorney Grace Yoo in the contest to replace Herb Wesson in Council District 10, and state senator Holly Mitchell beat Wesson in the race to replace Ridley-Thomas on the Board of Supervisors. 

 The Chronicle spoke with victor Raman about her campaign success as well as her first steps as councilmember-elect. 

“You know, we started this campaign knowing that we were running against the odds. We were running against an incumbent, and one of the most well funded candidates in City Council history. The campaign was premised on this idea that we would talk to voters that were not always interested in municipal government and to convince them that it was worth their time to get involved. We were able to engage voters that hadn’t otherwise been engaged,” Raman said by phone. 

According to Raman, who will be the first woman to represent CD4, her campaign was built on the work of organizers and movement leaders — she was endorsed by Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Socialists of America, and she received significant campaign support from progressive nonprofit Ground Game LA — as well as from people “who are just realizing their power to shape local government.” 

Raman, who holds a graduate degree in city planning from MIT, most recently served as the executive director of Time’s Up Entertainment. In 2017 she co-founded the SELAH Neighborhood Homeless Coalition, which connects people experiencing homelessness in the Echo Park-to-Atwater neighborhoods to housing while also providing an accessible entry point for residents who want to get involved. 

Regarding her predecessor Ryu, Raman says that she is very grateful for his response to the election results: “One of the first things he said to me was that he wanted to make sure and provide our team with the support needed to get started on day one. I’m very, very grateful for him to prioritize that.” 

Raman and CD10 Councilman-elect Mark Ridley-Thomas are scheduled to be sworn in on Mon., Dec. 14. 

In late November, Raman announced that her co-campaign managers, founding members of Ground Game LA Jessica Salans and Meghan Choi, will share a role resembling CD4 chief-of-staff. Raman also is having conversations about staffing with Councilmembers, community leaders and political advisors, such as Miguel Santana, the former City Administrative Officer. 

As we talked, Raman admitted that she had taken a walk earlier that day, which was the first time she’d had a chance to do any self-care in months: “I feel like I can finally breathe,” she says with a laugh. When asked what her five-year-old twins thought of it all, Raman says that they were the least surprised. “Like most kids that age, their family is the center of their universe, so they expected nothing else. They took it in stride and wanted me to read them a book,” she says. 

Energized by her win, and excited to hit the ground running, Raman is clear-eyed about the challenges facing Los Angeles — not least of all a raging pandemic at the onset of winter. 

Raman explains that she is “absolutely focused” on her major campaign issues of affordable housing and homelessness. She is working now on how to put her policy ideas, “like protecting renters, preventing homelessness and improving the ways that we address these issues,” into reality. But now, “COVID has made these issues all the more important. 

“The focus continues but the context is a little different,” she says. 

“I think we are likely going to be in for a tough period for the city, county and country. But I’m looking at this crisis through the lens of having a vaccine widely available in the next few months, and a new administration in D.C. These are things that are giving me hope,” says Raman. 



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