Maybe there is a path to Perry victory, Newton argues

Thumbnail image for jan-perry-arms-folded.jpgCouncilwoman Jan Perry's move last week to re-brand herself as the business-minded reform candidate in the race for mayor is at least "viable," Times columnist Jim Newton says. What choice does she have really? If Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti split the liberal vote, and if Kevin James' outsider strategy doesn't appeal to Democrats and independents, maybe there's a spot for the City Hall veteran.

Newton analyzes Perry's situation in Monday's LAT op-ed column:

Perry's approach reflects an important feature of the field for this campaign: Controller Greuel and Councilman Garcetti, the leading candidates at this early stage, bring to the campaign virtually identical politics and similar temperaments. Both are personable, smart liberals with strong ties to organized labor.... Those relationships are likely to supply Garcetti and Greuel with volunteers and financial support, both vital to winning. But they also present Perry with an opportunity to set herself apart. Now that County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and businessmen Austin Beutner and Rick Caruso have opted out of the campaign, Perry finds herself with a surprisingly open shot at becoming the favored candidate of business. As one longtime observer of this region's politics remarked to me last week, "It's the only way for her to go."

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But she has liabilities too. In 2007, she joined council colleagues — including Greuel and Garcetti — in voting for a salary increase that gave city workers more than 25% over five years. The deal was rendered insupportable when the economy tanked the next year, but it doesn't take a Nobel laureate to see that not many workers in 2007 were getting deals that promised them annual salary increases of 5%. When I asked her if she regretted that vote, Perry laughed. "Yes," she said. "Of course."

Perry does have her share of enemies. She is famously stubborn — one joke kicking around the campaign is that she might have dropped out of this race and instead run for controller if only so many people hadn't asked her to. And the demographic dynamics of her base are complicated. She's African American and enjoys strong support from that important but relatively small community. She's also, unbeknownst to many voters, Jewish, which supplies her either with a way to extend her base or to confuse it.

Thus far, there's been no major turn toward Perry from the business types who had encouraged Beutner to run and who may have liked Yaroslavsky to get in the race. If they do get behind Perry, Newton writes, she could become a bigger factor.


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