Campaign 2013

Campaign Tuesday: Power in LA, what we don't know, new big spenders — and a poll


These wheels above depict the relationships of power in Los Angeles City Hall. "Power in L.A. is both horizontal and vertical," says Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute at CSU Los Angeles, in a cool little guide to how City Hall works for Los Angeles magazine. Sonenshein served as executive director of one of the two commissions that rewrote the city charter in 1999, and he also edited "Los Angeles: Structure of a City Government" for the League of Women Voters in 2006. He's the right guy to explain why LA's mayor could never be as big a player as Michael Bloomberg in New York, but that we don't really have a weak mayor system. "The mayor’s office in L.A. has never been all that weak, and the 1999 city charter revision (which, full disclosure, I helped draft) gave the office more sway than it ever had."

The online package also links to the profiles by Gabriel Kahn of candidates Wendy Greuel, Eric Garcetti, Jan Perry and Kevin James, which ran previously. For what it's worth, here's also my piece on Garcetti for the magazine in 2006. Spoiler alert: the Salma Hayek connection comes up.

Sobering wisdom from Michael Woo

Former councilman Mike Woo ran for mayor in 1993 and lost in the runoff to Richard Riordan. He says in an LAT op-ed piece that he's learned the campaign process "sheds little light on a mayoral candidate's ability to do the job." That's because the qualities that make someone a good politician are not necessarily those that make a good mayor.

Being mayor of Los Angeles is not like being a council member or city controller. The job is markedly different than the previous jobs of all of the candidates. In the city's political system, the mayor, not the council or the controller, has the responsibility to take the lead on proposing the annual city budget, addressing citywide issues such as the future of LAX or the port, and launching new citywide initiatives. The mayor's accountability to the voters does not diminish the reality that, more than anybody else in City Hall, it's the mayor who runs the show....

None of the mayoral candidates has a track record as a chief executive recruiting, hiring and managing such a large cadre of field captains and foot soldiers. It would be helpful to know before voting how a candidate would reach beyond the throng of donors, campaign volunteers, personal friends (and friends of friends) to find the best individuals to work in city government, especially for key choices such as the chief of staff and the deputy mayors.

Though the City Charter does not give an L.A. mayor the centralized power used by other big-city mayors, the L.A. mayor indisputably can make loud and resonant use of the bully pulpit, defining an issue or setting the agenda for the city and even the broader Southern California region. But do we know how the candidates would use that platform?

Do any of the candidates have a big idea that could inspire the city? Bringing a World's Fair to L.A.? Creating a citywide network of urban farms? Engaging the city's vast creative community to reshape the urban landscape and solve city problems? Launching a community service corps energized by mandatory participation of the city's teenagers? The mayor leading daily two-mile exercise hikes through urban or pastoral landscapes in the city? The mayor commuting daily to City Hall on public transit?

Read the piece.

Two new big spenders

At this late hour in the election cycle, it pays for reporters to check the independent expenditure filings daily. (The good stuff sure isn't going to come covering debates...) The LA Weekly's Gene Maddaus this afternoon turned up a surprise new spend of $151,630 on Wendy Greuel by a Huntington Park physician, Dr. Feliciano Serrano. The doctor has made four videos that promote Greuel, and they star—himself. Here's one that's apparently headed to TV:

So who is he? Serrano didn't have time to talk to Maddaus on Monday — "I have surgery to do" — but he has been on the edge of city affairts, with at least one tie to Councilman Jose Huizar. Maddaus digs around, and also gets some information on a new $200,000 to the Republican-flavored independent committee that is backing Kevin James. That check came from John Arnold, a "retired Enron trader who made billions running a Houston-based hedge fund" and who has has been an Obama contributor. He apparently is very interested in pension reform.

A Greuel poll has Greuel leading

A new private poll from "a Greuel-friendly source who declined to be identified" found, no surprise, that Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti should cruise through the election next Tuesday and into the May 21 runoff. The specific numbers are Greuel 27% to Garcetti 24%, with a 4.4-point margin of error, so you could easily call it a tie. The survey was reportedly in the field Feb. 14-17. Now the part the Greuel camp really wants out: the poll reportedly shows Greuel ahead 40-34 in a mano-a-mano match with Garcetti in the runoff.

Garcetti consultant Bill Carrick called BS to the LA Weekly's Gene Maddaus:

"These numbers obviously came from one of the interest groups funding one of the campaigns for Wendy Greuel," Carrick said. "I would take them not only with a grain of salt but maybe a pound of salt... The only time we have ever seen (Greuel) in first place is in something that has been leaked to the media by her campaign or by one of the groups funding the independent expenditure campaigns in her behalf."

The poll had Jan Perry at 16%, Kevin James at 11% and Emanuel Pleitez at 3%.

LAT's Finnegan: Perry making it a race

He doesn't offer data to back it up, but Times political writer Michael Finnegan writes tonight that "an aggressive mail campaign by Jan Perry has helped push her into a three-way fight with Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti for two spots in a May runoff." The proof, he says, comes from Greuel deciding to go after Perry in mailers, and from both Greuel and Garcetti following Perry into black churches last Sunday. "Jan has made this a three-person race," says unaligned campaign strategist Parke Skelton in the LAT story.

By tradition and necessity, the winning formula in a Los Angeles mayor's race is to build a coalition of two big voter groups — no small task in a city so diverse and geographically vast. Heightening the challenge this year is the lack of personal charisma among Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's would-be successors. None of them started with a large or solid base.

The candidates are targeting some groups more than others. Over the weekend, they paid respects to two of the largest: African Americans in South L.A. and white liberals on the Westside.

Perry, who sees fellow African Americans as her strongest constituency, visited black churches Sunday with her most prized supporter, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles). At New Testament Church on West Florence Avenue, Waters told parishioners that Perry was unashamed "to talk about the poor and the disenfranchised and the 35% to 40% of our young men and women who are without jobs."

Perry, in turn, made an overt, and rare, racial appeal. "Not since Tom Bradley has there been an African American in this seat," she told worshipers. "I would be the first woman, and I would be the first woman of color."

Greuel and Garcetti stand little chance of winning the black vote next week. But they too spent Sunday morning at South L.A. churches, a nod to the pivotal role that African Americans would play in a Greuel-Garcetti runoff.

Rabbi Perry?

In a conversation with KNX reporter Charles Feldman, Jan Perry said if she becomes mayor she will tackle two issues first: city employee health and pension costs, and revamping the Convention Center.

And should she not become mayor?

"I’m a spiritual person,” said Perry. “I might study to become a Rabbi.”

In the second part of this week's "series of articles focusing on key periods in the lives of the mayoral hopefuls," the LA Times calls Perry — the only major candidate for mayor born in another state — "in some ways...a classic Angeleno."

She grew up in a suburb of Cleveland during racially tumultuous times, having a cross burned on her family's lawn, but also seeing both of her parents elected mayor of their town.

In some ways, she is a classic Angeleno: an African American transplant from the snowy Midwest who converted to Judaism and speaks Spanish. She represents a district whose demographics are rapidly shifting from a stronghold of black voters to Latino.

Before Perry got into politics, she was a paralegal for 14 years and earned a master's degree in public administration. While living in Mid-Wilshire on the Miracle Mile, she became active in neighborhood preservation. She instantly impressed Renee Weitzer, then a staffer for Councilman John Ferraro, with her ability to gauge the effects of proposed development on the neighborhood.

Pleitez en Español

Emanuel Pleitez announced his first television ad buy of his mayoral campaign. The 30-second TV spot is targeted at Spanish media.

Also noted
  • Does Eric Garcetti keep his word? Accounts vary LAT/Linthicum
  • Garcetti will hold a press conference at the historic Sunset Gower Studios at 1 p.m. Tuesday to discuss his legislation to "incentivize television pilot production in Los Angeles."
  • No candidates have the answer on traffic, just a lot of support for bikes and transit. LA Observed on KCRW
  • Three of the candidates for city attorney — Carmen Trutanich, Mike Feuer and Greg Smith — sat together in a KCRW studio with Warren Olney for a segment on tonight's "Which way, LA?" WWLA, LAT
  • Trutanich’s team announced his first TV spot of the campaign.

LA Observed Politics page

More by Kevin Roderick:
Standing up to Harvey Weinstein
The Media
LA Times gets a top editor with nothing but questions
LA Observed Notes: Harvey Weinstein stripped bare
LA Observed Notes: Photos of the homeless, photos that found homes
Recent Campaign 2013 stories on LA Observed:
Shallman and Carrick on 'Which Way, LA?' tonight
Greuel consultant blames the LA Times
Morning Buzz: Friday 5.24.13
Campaign 2013 photo gallery by Gary Leonard
Election post-mortem in quotes (some very pointed)
Losers in the mayoral race: Latino leaders?
Yaroslavsky: No regrets and some advice for the next mayor
Garcetti thanks Greuel and LA, says election was 'never for sale'


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