LOS ANGELES, Calif.–The Los Angeles City Council will undergo a major facelift beginning today as voters in eight of the panel’s 15 districts choose representatives from candidate fields as small as two and as large as 12.

With council members Dennis Zine, Eric Garcetti, Jan Perry, Richard Alarcon and Ed Reyes termed out, and Bill Rosendahl opting not to seek re-election, the race will usher in an unusually high number of new members–but not all the faces will be completely new.

Thanks in large part to term limits, several former and current state lawmakers are looking to make the jump to Los Angeles City Hall, outpacing their competitors in fundraising and carrying a built-in lead in name recognition. But some of their opponents insist they have deeper, on-the-ground involvement in their communities.

Only two incumbents, Joe Buscaino and Paul Koretz, are in the mix, and both are facing only token opposition from challengers who haven’t raised any money–Westwood Neighborhood Council member Mark Heard in Koretz’s 5th District and minister/disability advocate James T. Law in Buscaino’s 15th.

In one of the closer races involving a state legislator, Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, is battling Jose Gardea, Reyes’ longtime chief of staff, to represent the 1st District, which includes northeast Los Angeles, Chinatown and Pico-Union. Businessman Jesse Rosas, with just $3,000 in funds, is also in the running, but his bigger-name competitors have both raised funds in the six figures.

In the West Valley race to fill Zine’s 3rd District council seat, Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Van Nuys, is taking on five other candidates, most of whom have spoken out against a state politician’s entry into a local race. His most politically experienced rival is Joyce Pearson, a neighborhood council chair and Woodland Hills tax attorney. She ran a spirited campaign during the 2002 Valley secession movement to sit on the council of a proposed city that never materialized.

In the 7th District, Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Arleta, has a significant fundraising lead in a race against three others–education advocate Nicole Chase, actress and community volunteer Krystee Clark and housing inspector Jesse David Barron–to replace Alarcon in the northeast San Fernando Valley district.

A field of candidates, some already City Hall insiders, are battling Sen. Curren Price, D-Los Angeles, and former Assemblyman Mike Davis to replace Perry, who is termed out from her 9th District council seat and running for mayor. Other hopefuls are Ana Cubas, Councilman Jose Huizar’s former chief of staff; David Roberts, who has worked in the offices of Councilman Bernard Parks and former Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas; and Terry Hara, a deputy chief in the Los Angeles Police Department.

Four people are running in the 11th District, which is represented by Rosendahl, who announced last year he was suffering from cancer and would not run for a third term. His chief of staff, Mike Bonin, has the most money in his campaign and is considered the leading candidate in a field that also includes
attorney Tina Hess, community advocate Frederick Sutton and teacher Odysseus Bostick.

In the most crowded race of the election, a dozen candidates are seeking to replace Garcetti, a mayoral candidate, in the 13th District, which includes Silver Lake, Thai Town, East Hollywood and Echo Park.

About half of the candidates have amassed comparable war chests, and the rest are not far behind. The field includes some who are already familiar to City Hall, including John Choi, a former Public Works commissioner and economic development director for the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor; Emile Mack, a fire commander in the LAFD’s south division; Matt Szabo, the former budget deputy for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; and Josh Post, an attorney who once worked in Mayor James Hahn’s administration on the L.A.’s Best preschool program.

Leaders in the 13th District’s neighborhood councils also stepped up, including Mitch O’Farrell, a co-founder of the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council and president of the neighborhood’s park improvement organization; Jose Sigala, president of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council; Sam Kbushyan, who sits on the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council; and Samuel Haraldson, a former member of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council who later served on the city’s Parks Oversight Committee.

The rest of the field includes Alex De Ocampo, managing director of the Saban Family Foundation; Robert Negrete, who worked on Alex Padilla’s staff both at the City Council and state Senate; Octavio Pescador, a UCLA professor and co-founder of the UCLA Paulo Freire Institute in the Graduate School of Education; and Mike Schaefer, a city prosecutor and two-time councilman in San Diego who once ran a losing campaign against Councilman Tom LaBonge.

Candidates must receive more than 50 percent of the vote to claim the seat outright. If no candidate receives the required votes, the top two finishers will advance to a May 21 runoff election.