Seeking a Democratic comeback, Kevin de León attends Biden fundraiser

Los Angeles, CA - September 21: Embattled 14th District Los Angeles City Council member Kevin de Leon waves to a person as hundreds of needy people attend his food distribution outside his council office in Los Angeles Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. Kevin de Leon, who announced his reelection bid, was caught in racist recording last fall which was followed by a large outpouring of community members, colleagues, local leaders, Gov. Newsom and President Biden asking him to resign. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles City Counciman Kevin de León, seen in September, is seeking reelection after Democratic leaders called for him to resign for his part in a racist recording. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Along with the dignitaries attending President Biden's star-studded fundraiser at Peacock Theater on Saturday night was the man Biden had urged to resign from the Los Angeles City Council: Kevin de León.

De León, who weathered a scandal that rocked City Hall, was seen in the theater lobby while other elected officials met with Biden and former President Obama.

Outside the theater, De León took the opportunity to speak to reporters about what he characterized as the danger of Donald Trump becoming president again.

He noted the pro-Palestinian protesters who had flanked the theater, saying, "What's at stake here right now, in the battleground states ... is the well-being of immigrants, undocumented immigrants, the poor, the most vulnerable, our senior citizens. That's what's at stake here, too — not just global matters."

In a video posted online by a Pasadena Star-News journalist, De León added, "I'm looking forward to Presidents Biden and Barack Obama really instilling a sense of deep enthusiasm among Democrats. Listen, this is a blue town; this is a blue state. We're not going anywhere. ... I'm hoping that California can have that huge positive impact."

De León is scraping together a political comeback after the Los Angeles Times revealed in 2022 that he had participated with other councilmembers in a secretly recorded conversation riddled with racist remarks. The audio leak led then-Council President Nury Martinez to step down. Many called for De León to resign too — including Biden.

“The president is glad to see that one of the participants in that conversation has resigned, but they all should,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said at the time.

Instead, De León clung to his seat — despite persistent protests in City Hall chambers, the loss of his committee assignments and his physical altercation with a critic that was captured on videotape. He mounted a reelection campaign, scoring second place in March's primary election. Last month, Council President Paul Krekorian announced he was placing De León on four council committees.

And on Saturday night, the controversial councilmember was spotted at the downtown event, Los Angeles' highest-dollar Democratic fundraiser on record. But other elected dignitaries from Southern California, including Mayor Karen Bass and Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Long Beach), mingled with Biden and Obama in the VIP section.

Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price was also spotted arriving at the theater, though he was blocked from entering near the JW Marriott hotel when protesters sat down in front of the gates. Some of the demonstrators shouted at him, referencing his pending criminal charges.

Price was charged last year with 10 counts of embezzlement, perjury and conflict of interest for voting on development projects in which he allegedly had a financial interest. He is also the subject of an L.A. City Ethics Commission review over similar accusations.

Staff writers Liam Dillon and Seema Mehta contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.