Democrat ‘rising star’ caught on leaked audio doubles down amid calls to resign: ‘He’s staying and that’s it’
Shouts broke out in Los Angeles City Hall on Tuesday as Kevin de León, the embattled L.A. city councilman, appeared at a council meeting after audio leaked in October of de León making racist remarks with several colleagues.
De León, once described as a 'rising star' and 'trailblazer' in his party by the Los Angeles Times, is the only city councilmember involved in the scandal to remain in his post, but calls for de León's resignation continue to mount.
President Biden and virtually every California Democrat have called for de León's resignation since the leaked audio surfaced in October.
'He’s staying and that’s it,' a spokesperson for de Leon told Fox News Digital. 'He’s made the decision to stay and represent his constituents on the pressing issues facing them.
'At the end of the day, Councilmember de León is elected by the constituents of his district. They’re his bosses. They hire and fire him at the voting booth.'
De León's term in office ends in December 2024.
Tuesday's uproar stemmed from a leaked recording laced with profanity and racist comments from a year-old meeting involving Nury Martinez, Ron Herrera, Gil Cedillo and de León — all Latino Democrats — in which they plotted to expand their political power at the expense of Black voters during a realignment of district boundaries.
The longtime Democrat first entered California public office in 2006 when he was elected to State Assembly, launching an unsuccessful run for speaker of the lower chamber not long after.
In 2010, de León was elected to the state Senate and became Senate president pro tempore in 2014, throwing a 'presidential-style' inauguration in honor of the occasion, according to a Mercury News report. De León received some blowback from the press for his lavish, 200-person Walt Disney Concert Hall ceremony — an event that is usually a low-key affair in the state Capitol building.
Facing term limits, the then-state senator made an unsuccessful run against longtime Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2018. However, after a brief interlude out of public office, de León was elected to Los Angeles City Council by a special election in 2020. Not long after, he launched another attempt at higher office, announcing a run for Los Angeles mayor in 2021, coming in at third place.
Since the recording surfaced, numerous colleagues of de León, including councilmembers Raman and Hernandez, have issued statements condemning the councilman as 'racist' and 'homophobic.' Both Raman and Hernandez are members of the Democratic Socialists of America party and support the movement to defund the police.
De León's office responded to those accusations, telling Fox that the councilman has a 'long track record that is inclusive and supportive of all communities, so his record speaks for itself.'
The disruption that ignited in the council meeting on Tuesday is the latest scandal to plague de León. Last Friday, he made his first appearance in the city council chamber after a 59-day absence, though the meeting quickly devolved into protests from activists and other councilmembers who refused to carry on the meeting. Later that day, video surfaced of de León in a physical altercation with a protester at a Los Angeles tree lighting event.
Despite being censured by his colleagues and stripped of committee assignments, de León continues to receive a salary. Los Angeles city councilmembers are some of the highest paid city officials in the country, raking in $229,000 annually.
The Los Angeles City Clerk recently approved a petition to recall de León, who still has two years left in his council term. Organizers have until March 31, 2023, to collect roughly 20,000 signatures in order push the recall effort to a vote. This is the third intent to recall that has been filed against the councilman.
'We’ll leave it to the voters,' said a spokesperson for de León.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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