Name: David E. Ryu
Took Office: 2015
Who does he represent?
District 4 covers part of Koreatown, Mid-Wilshire, Hancock Park up through Hollywood, East to Silver Lake and North to Toluca Lake and Sherman Oaks. It’s kind of in the shape of the number 4 if your two year old drew it.
Where’s he from?
Ryu grew up in LA, though he was born in South Korea. He’s lived here most of his life. His dad ran a newspaper based here called the “Korean Street Journal.”
How did he get here?
Ryu studied economics and public policy. He has a Masters from Rutgers University. Some of his first jobs were working under LA County Supervisor Yvonne Burke and working in the County Controller’s Office. He also worked as a Director of Development for a psychiatric hospital and community health center.
He was elected to City Council in 2015 and is the first Korean American on the Council.
What does he care about?
Most recently? Keeping his job. Ryu was elected in 2015 as a suburban revolt candidate, riding a wave of anti-housing sentiment directed at outgoing councilmember Tom LaBonge to win low-slung neighborhoods like Sherman Oaks in a low-turnout race. He pledged to get corporate and special interest money out of politics — to that end, his signature piece of legislation in his five-year term was a ban on campaign donations from real estate developers. It had so many loopholes that campaign finance reform groups called it “worse than not passing anything at all.”
Now he’s in a very tight race with urban planner and homelessness nonprofit leader Nithya Raman, and his perspective on corporate and special interest money appears to have changed. Ryu is running the most expensive campaign in LA City Council history, driven by over a million dollars spent in the primary, $200,000 in independent spending by one man who lives in Nevada, and funding from more than 200 corporations and PACs.
Ryu’s core values are tough to locate. After never talking about homelessness in his 2015 race, he took it up as an issue this year to outflank his opponent — and after flaunting his endorsement from the LAPD officer union in the primary, he disavowed their support (and major PAC spending on his behalf) after the Black Lives Matter protests in June. But as Nithya’s grassroots campaign has built momentum, Ryu has tacked hard to the right: fearmongering over Nithya’s support of Black Lives Matter LA and the People’s Budget Coalition, and calling organizations that support her like DSA-LA and Ground Game LA “extremist groups that promote hate and violence.”