L.A. Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson wins the council presidency, will replace Krekorian

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 08: Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson is running for reelection for a seat in L.A. City Council District 8 this year. Photographed on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024 in Los Angeles, CA. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, pictured in January, was elected Tuesday to serve as the council's next president, replacing Paul Krekorian. He will fill the post on Sept. 20. (Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson won his bid for the council's top leadership post on Tuesday, saying he intends to use the presidency to focus heavily on homelessness.

The council voted 14 to 0 to select Harris-Dawson to replace Paul Krekorian — who has held the position since October 2022, after the audio leak scandal that spurred the resignation of Council President Nury Martinez.

Harris-Dawson, 54, is slated to take over the presidency on Sept. 20. After Tuesday's vote, he said homelessness would be the council's "No. 1, 2 and 3" issues under his leadership.

"There's no issue more important than the tens of thousands of people sleeping in the street every night, so we need to zero in on that as much as possible," he said. "I don't think there is any other business that supersedes that for the council."

Krekorian, who must leave city office at the end of the year due to term limits, is set to continue as president for the next four months. Councilmember Monica Rodriguez was absent from Tuesday's vote.

Harris-Dawson, first elected in 2015, represents a South Los Angeles district that consists of all or a portion of Baldwin Hills, Hyde Park, Park Mesa Heights and several other neighborhoods.

As president, he will have the power to determine the makeup of council committees dealing with public safety, homelessness, the city budget and many other high-profile issues. A close ally of Mayor Karen Bass, he will probably set the tone for the council's relationship with the mayor, who has been focused on moving unhoused Angelenos into hotels, motels and other types of temporary housing.

Harris-Dawson told The Times this month that he had spoken with each of his colleagues about what they want in a president. On Tuesday, while fielding questions from reporters, he declined to say whether he had asked Councilmember Kevin de León, a major figure in the 2022 audio scandal, to support his bid for the leadership post.

"I'm happy that it was a unanimous vote," Harris-Dawson said.

Harris-Dawson had sought De León's resignation nearly two years ago after The Times reported that De León, Martinez, then-Councilmember Gil Cedillo and a high-profile labor leader took part in a secretly recorded conversation that featured racist and derogatory remarks. De León has issued multiple apologies since then, saying he is sorry for what he did and did not say during the meeting.

De León voted for Harris-Dawson on Tuesday. In an interview last week, he said Harris-Dawson had spoken with him about the presidency — and did seek his support.

"I think we had a good discussion on a whole variety of issues that impact the city," De León said.

Harris-Dawson will take over the council's leadership post in a year when city leaders have been working to erase a major budget shortfall. Last week, council members voted to eliminate about 1,700 vacant positions in an effort to rein in spending.

City leaders also have begun preparations for the 2028 Olympic Games. In the coming months, the council will decide whether to push ahead with an expensive modernization of the city's Convention Center in the run-up to the Games.

Harris-Dawson told his colleagues that he will have more to say about his plans once he has assumed his post.

"Until September, expect to see me with my head down, studying as hard as we can so we can be as prepared as possible when we take leadership of this council," he said.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.