By now everyone should know that more people live in the Los Angeles portion of the San Fernando Valley than in any U.S. city except New York, L.A., Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia (and maybe Phoenix, depending on whose numbers you like.) Almost half are immigrants, and the Valley population is about as diverse, by ethnicity and national origin, as the whole of Los Angeles. They tend to have middle-class family aspirations, not so different from the postwar couples who created the Valley suburbs sixty years ago. What matters in the current race for mayor is that Valleyites comprise 4 in 10 L.A. voters, including most of the conservative and moderate white voters — a niche that Jim Hahn commanded in 2001.
Both Hahn and, before him, Richard Riordan became mayor by winning the Valley. That's why Hahn was in Mission Hills yesterday dedicating a new police station, why he attended three services at the Church on the Way on Sherman Way today, and why his public remarks and mail pieces try to paint Hahn's opponent as an extreme liberal — they emphasize Antonio Villaraigosa's past role in the ACLU and even suggest he is pro-gang. A Sunday Times analysis of the Battle for the Valley says that scaring the suburbs could be Hahn's last chance to catch up by May 17. Democratic consultant Larry Levine:
"Can he frighten those people about Antonio a second time?" Levine asked. "And can he motivate them to come out and rally around him on election day after they've spent the last two years or so reading about scandals in City Hall?"
The Valley's clout is also why Villaraigosa staged his Saturday rally with John Kerry at Valley College, surrounded by local figures who support him over the mayor. (They even played Bing Crosby's wartime hit, "San Fernando Valley.") Compared to 2001, Villaraigosa is much better positioned to win the Valley this time. On Sunday, he got a big boost when the Daily News endorsed him:
Four years ago, this newspaper endorsed Hahn - hoping that he would grow and learn, that he would embrace change, that he could be more than a bureaucrat and that he could dig deep down for the strong leadership skills Los Angeles needs in a mayor.
He has done none of that.
Villaraigosa, on the other hand, represents the future.
He is the living embodiment of the Los Angeles dream. Growing up poor in a tough neighborhood, he made something of himself while giving life to his ideals as a union leader, a civil-rights crusader and a speaker of the state Assembly.
He has learned and grown along the way. And he knows that the key to Los Angeles' future is the middle class - the preservation and creation of well-paying jobs, the development of a work force with the skills to take advantage of new opportunities in a fast-changing world.
This time, the most powerful Democrats in the Valley — Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, State Sen. Richard Alarcon and City Council President Alex Padilla — have endorsed Villaraigosa. So has the man who got the most votes for mayor in the primary, Bob Hertzberg, and the man who got the most votes for Valley mayor in the 2002 secession election, Republican Assemblyman Keith Richman. Secession leaders David Fleming and Richard Close head the list of influential Valley figures to jump to Villaraigosa. Hahn's roster of Valley backers, led by Galpin Motors owner Bert Boeckmann, is mostly Republican and conservative, a solid but narrower niche than Hahn won with in 2001.
Tom Hogen-Esch, associate political science professor at Cal State Northridge, delivers the most apt bottom line for Hahn: "If he's unable to win the West Valley, the whole game is lost."
Also: DA Steve Cooley's inquiry into Villaraigosa's Florida contributions is the lede story in Monday's Daily Journal. Cooley: "This should not be seen as something unusual. It's perfectly routine."