The City Council's District 7 race in the spring primary has no incumbent on paper, but the race is shaping up as a classic battle between a political insider with money and organization against three less-experienced challenges.
Felipe Fuentes, a former Assemblyman who has also worked as an aide at City Hall, is the only candidate to report any fundraising, with more than $163,000 for the March 5 primary election. Much of it came from a variety of sources that include Sacramento political action committees, unions and developers.
While Fuentes is seen as the candidate to beat, he is facing challenges from Nicole Chase, a development and marketing director at the Boys & Girls Club of the San Fernando Valley; Krystee Clark, an actress and producer; and David Barron, an employee with city housing code enforcement.
The four are vying for a northeast San Fernando Valley seat that had been held by Richard Alarcón, who is termed out and lost his bid to win a state Assembly seat.
Before Alarcón, Alex Padilla held the seat - and Fuentes worked at City Hall as his deputy. He also served as a deputy mayor under former Mayor James Hahn.
After his City hall seat, Fuentes ran for and won an Assembly seat but now is termed out.
Fuentes, 41, said his message focuses on his local ties to the community from his days working for Padilla and Hahn and his six years in the Assembly.
"We have done a very good job in staying connected to the community," Fuentes said. "Whether it is career fairs or the foreclosure fairs, my voters are very familiar with me."
Fuentes also pushed for a bill supported by homeowners, but which did not pass, that would have prevented the city from transferring the cost of sidewalk repair on to residents.
"I think there is need for a real honest conversation with residents about the city's ability to fulfill its services, including the repair of sidewalks, streets and repaving," Fuentes said. "These are issues that are not going to go away, and I don't think the city should balance those on the backs of property owners.
Chase, 45, said she is concerned with a myriad of issues from overdevelopment in certain parts of the district to making sure equestrian and rural areas are protected.
Because of the work she does at the Boys & Girls Club, Chase said she is sensitive to the needs of young people to keep them out of gangs, offer education and training for the future and help improve the local economy.
"And I think beyond the authority of the City Council, but as a council representative, you need to look at the big picture of the city," Chase said. "How can we, as a community, move the area forward?
"It's important to make sure that this community has a voice in how the city develops. This is a diverse community and I love the diversity.
Clark, 41, became interested in local government after she began working with the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council on planning issues.
"One of the things people tell me and that I'm concerned with is preserving what open space there is," Clark said. "What we need to do is focus on each individual neighborhood and what makes them unique and take steps to preserve and improve that."
Clark said she also is concerned about the loss of the entertainment industry from Los Angeles.
"I want to bring it back to where it used to be," Clark said.
As for the challenge of running against Fuentes, Clark said she will campaign on the need to bring in fresh ideas.
"We need new blood on the City Council," Clark said. "Obviously, he has a lot of money behind him, but money doesn't equal votes."
Barron, 64, said he was urged by members of his Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council to run for the seat.
"I don't want to tolerate the misuse of our funds and working for the city, I see all the revenue coming in and, yet, my taxes and fees are going up," Barron said.
"I am out dealing with the public every day and I hear what they say and what I see are more and more empty buildings. We have to do something about the taxes in this city to bring business back and create jobs for people.
"The business tax is running people out of town. We need to bring them back."
Barron has worked for the Housing Department for 13 years after a career in the construction industry.
He said he recognizes the challenge of trying to defeat Fuentes, but believes he has a chance.
"I'm a grass-roots candidate," Barron said. "I think people will appreciate that."