The Election of Cristobal Aguilar

Los Angeles' First Chicano Mayor

By John P. Schmal
Published on LatinoLA: October 5, 2005

The Election of Cristobal Aguilar

Cristobal Aguilar, a career politician and a member of a well-respected Californio family, served as Mayor of Los Angeles from May 10, 1866 to December 7, 1868. Se?or Aguilar had also served many terms as a member of the Los Angeles Common Council (1850, 1855-56, 1858-59, 1861-62) and of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors (1854-56, 1860, 1862-64)

Although his term of Mayor had ended in 1868, Aguilar still had a desire to take part in the direction of the small multicultural pueblo that contained almost 6,000 Chicanos, Anglos, Frenchmen and Chinese (among others). When he was tallied in the 1870 Federal Census, 56-year-old Cristoval Aguilar told the census taker that he was ?Ex-Mayor of Los Angeles.? He proudly pointed out that he was a native of California and noted that he owned $1,600 of real estate and $200 of personal estate. Cristobal?s household at this time included his wife Dolores, four children ranging in ages from 19 to 7, and his 68-year-old widowed mother.

The election for Mayor of Los Angeles took place on December 5, 1870, and Cristobal Aguilar announced that he would take part in this election. According to Los Angeles City Council documents (Vol. 7, Extraordinary Session of Dec. 9, 1870, pp. 216-220), the results of the mayoral election were as follows:

Cristobal Aguilar:
1st Ward ? 156
2nd Ward ? 146
3rd Ward ? 134
Total votes for Aguilar - 436

Andrew Glassell
1st Ward ? 49
2nd Ward ? 195
3rd Ward ? 184
Total votes for Glassell ? 428

This vote was very close. Although Aguilar had won the election by 436 votes to 428, he had essentially lost the votes in the 2nd and 3rd wards. And, if that was not bad enough, a registered voter, Mr. A. King came forth and objected to the results of the election in a letter to the Mayor and the Los Angeles Common Council.

In his complaint, Mr. King declared that the votes in the 1st and 2nd wards were invalid for several reasons. For one thing, there was no properly qualified Board of Registration in the 1st Ward as Cristobal Aguilar and George Walter, the duly appointed members of the board, had failed to qualify for the positions. King also stated that the names of various parties were placed on poll lists in the 2nd Ward without the affidavits required by law and were thus illegal poll lists. King said that the large number of names on the poll lists in the 2nd ward were enough ?to change the result of the election.?

Ward therefore demanded that ?said votes be rejected from the county and that the votes cast in the said first and second wards be not used as counted by you in determining the result of said election.? Demanding that the votes of the 1st and 2nd wards be ?rejected as illegal and void,? would mean that only the votes of the 3rd ward could be used, which would have given the election victory to Aguilar?s opponent, the lawyer Andrew Glassell.

When King?s demands to invalidate the votes of the 1st and 2nd wards were rejected, he demanded a ?re-count of the votes cast for the office of Mayor? and asked that ?his protest and objection be placed on file, and be spread upon the minutes of the Council.?
Recounts of the votes were done for the two wards, with the result that Andrew Glassell received 193 votes instead of 195 votes in the 2nd Ward. The results of the election were finally approved by the Common Council on December 9, and Cristobal Aguilar was declared Mayor.

Mayor Aguilar presided over Los Angeles during a period of transition and ethnic conflict. In the years since his political career had begun, Aguilar had watched as the population of Anglos grew rapidly in Los Angeles. And with this dramatic population growth came increasing political representation for the newcomers.

On December 2, 1872, Cristobal ran for re-election and was opposed by J.R. Toberman. According to Los Angeles City Council documents (Vol. 8, Common Council Session of Dec. 5, 1872, pp. 132-135), the results of the this election were:

Cristobal Aguilar
1st Ward ? 168
2nd Ward ? 76
3rd Ward ? 106
Total votes for Aguilar: 350

J.R. Toberman
1st Ward ? 45
2nd Ward ? 361
3rd Ward ? 309
Total votes for Toberman: 715

Once again, Aguilar had won the 1st Ward and lost the 2nd and 3rd Wards, but this time, he lost the overall election be a landslide, 715 to 350. Three days later, on December 5, 1872, after the approval of the election results by the Los Angeles Common Council, Cristobal Aguilar left office. The next Mexican-American mayor to serve the people of Los Angeles would not take office until July 2005, almost 133 years later, after the May 17 election victory of Antonio Villaraigosa.

Acknowledgement: I thank Los Angeles City Archivist Jay Jones and his staff for their cooperation and assistance.

? Copyright 2005, by John P. Schmal.

About John P. Schmal:
John Schmal is the coauthor of "The Dominguez Family: A Mexican-American Journey," published by Heritage Books ( Mr. Schmal will give a lecture about Mexican genealogical research at the Los Angeles Pueblo on October 8.

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