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Martinez’s resignation sets off scramble for mid-San Fernando Valley seat

Before last week, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Nury Martinez oversaw a mid-San Fernando Valley district facing myriad issues, including homelessness, major transportation plans and the 2028 Olympics.

Now, she’s stepped down in the wake of explosive, leaked audio that captured her racist remarks. And speculation has already surfaced about who will run for City Council District 6, which includes Van Nuys, Arleta, Panorama City, Lake Balboa and Sun Valley.

Cindy Montañez, who twice ran unsuccessfully against Martinez for the District 6 seat, told The Times on Sunday that three political consultants were among those who called her last week in the wake of the scandal to see if she would be interested in running. Montañez now serves on the San Fernando City Council.

Montañez, a former state Assemblywoman, didn’t definitively rule out a run but indicated that she’s happy in her San Fernando seat and as chief executive of the environmental nonprofit Tree People. “I want to support someone really good,” she said. “Someone who is committed to the community and not in it just for their political career.”

Community members and political consultants are also talking about Assemblywoman Luz Rivas for the district seat, Montañez said. Rivas is chair of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee and a “huge champion” of climate issues, Montañez said, adding, “I would hate to lose her in the Assembly.”

Rivas and Kelly Gonez, president of the Los Angeles school board, who could also be a contender, are up for reelection on the Nov. 8 ballot, making it less likely that they would speak out about now running for the L.A. council seat. The Times wasn’t able to reach them Sunday.

However, Angélica Dueñas, who is challenging Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Pacoima) in the upcoming election, told The Times that she would run in the Council District 6 race if she loses in November. Dueñas is endorsed by Ground Game LA and Teamster Local 360 in that race, according to her website.

Antoinette Scully, an organizer and activist, is also considering running for the empty seat, she told The Times.

The special election for the district 6 seat would probably happen next year. A nonvoting caretaker will oversee the district in the short term, city officials said last week.

Martinez herself was first elected in a special election in 2013 after Cardenas won his congressional seat.

Whoever is chosen will face challenges including homelessness and sex-trafficking along major corridors in the district. “We need all the help we can get,” said Saul Mejia, president of the Panorama City Chamber of Commerce, who described broken streets and crumbling sidewalks in his neighborhood.

Development is underway on the 9.2-mile East San Fernando Valley light rail line connecting the Van Nuys Metro G Line station to Metrolink at the Sylmar/San Fernando stop. The project aims to link the working-class communities of the northeast Valley, a corner of the city that has long been economically isolated from Los Angeles, to the rest of the region.

The line will run north-south from Van Nuys to San Fernando with 14 stops along the way, including at the Van Nuys Civic Center and in Panorama City, Arleta and Pacoima.

At the same time, the Metro G busway line is undergoing improvements and the massive Sepulveda Pass project — which will connect the Valley to the Westside — is in the review stage.

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian, who represents the east Valley and serves on the board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said Sunday that those transit lines are “really high priorities for me, and there won’t be any interruption in those projects at all” because of the lack of a city councilmember.

The city-owned Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area in District 6 is a major venue for the planned 2028 Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games. Any incoming city councilmember would have a role working with the LA28 committee, the nonprofit overseeing the games, and community members.

Ron Herrera, president of the L.A. County Federation of Labor, who was on the board of directors of LA 2028, can also be heard in the audio with Martinez. He resigned from the Olympic committee board last week, said LA 2028 spokesperson Lauren Lamkin. He also stepped down at the labor federation.

Times staff writer Rachel Uranga contributed to this report.

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