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Monday, March 4, 2024

How come Heather Hutt sent a staffer on her behalf to the debate?

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Heather Hutt, council member for LA City Council District 10, sent a staffer from her office to participate in an online debate for Council District 10 candidates. The debate, hosted by the nonprofit Streets for All, took place on the afternoon of January 23.

According to an explanation issued by Hutt’s office shortly before the debate, Hutt was unable to attend as she felt unwell, and the organizers granted permission for a staffer to participate on her behalf. The staffer simply read pre-prepared responses to the debate questions and agenda.

This is not Hutt’s first absence from a debate; she has missed two of the last four debates for various reasons and has faced criticism from opponents for making off-topic comments in the debates she has attended.










The four candidates for the 10th District Council seat — Grace Yoo, Reggie Jones-Sawyer, Aura Vasquez, and Eddie Anderson — issued a joint statement on January 25, criticizing Heather Hutt for sending a substitute to the debate. They stated, “We believe that candidates should communicate directly with voters, not send someone else to a town hall and/or forum, especially when it’s an opportunity to engage with community members.” They urged Hutt to stop misleading voters in future campaigns and vowed to boycott future debates if Hutt continues to send substitutes. As of now, Hutt has not responded to the statement.

Hutt’s political career began in 2011 as a district office director for a state assemblyman. She unsuccessfully ran for California State Assembly District 54 in a special election in 2021. In 2022, she was appointed chief of staff by then-10th District Councilman Herb Wesson. Following Wesson’s resignation, Speaker Nury Martinez appointed her as District 10 manager. Attempts by Martinez to make Hutt a full council member were met with opposition from a majority of council members.

After several twists and turns, Hutt was sworn in as an interim council member in September 2022 and declared her candidacy for the District 10 seat six months later. Now serving a second term, though never elected, she is a candidate in the March primary.

As an appointee rather than an elected official, Hutt is argued to need to approach her role with greater caution and humility. Her absence from candidate debates and the decision to send a substitute in her place have been points of contention. Furthermore, Hutt’s failure to utilize the $1.62 million allocated to the 10th District, which was subsequently redirected to the 13th District last November, raises concerns about her effectiveness in representing and implementing policies for District 10.

Given her non-elected, appointed status, Hutt owes to the voters to actively participate in policy forums, respond to constituent inquiries, and engage in debates with other candidates. The underlying question is whether she believes her political background and connections exempt her from the expectations placed on her by the constituents of the 10th District, who have yet to elect a representative and seek to evaluate the qualifications of their candidates through debate.

By Mooyoung Lee   lee.mooyoung@koreadaily.com