In conversations with friends and political analysts, I speculated that the LA Times would find a way to not quite pick a mayoral candidate to endorse in the primary. Perhaps by picking two and re-calculating in the runoff. I was wrong. Today the paper's editorial board announced it supports City Councilman Eric Garcetti. Times editorials don't deliver victory in big races, far from it (nor do they deliver defeat as critics like to think), but make no mistake it's a big boost. The language is not full-bore enthusiastic: there is no "obviously superior choice" in the field, the paper says, but Garcetti has "the most potential to rise to the occasion and lead Los Angeles out of its current malaise.... At this time, out of this field, he's the best choice for mayor." So it's more than lukewarm, but not quite love. Still, the Garcetti camp blasted out email to supporters saying "this is a big moment for our campaign, and adds to our grassroots momentum."
From the editorial:
Voters must be frank with themselves about Garcetti, who as a member of the City Council for nearly 12 years and its president for six must bear some responsibility for the city's current fiscal problems, which were dramatically worsened when the council negotiated employee contracts that were unaffordable, leading to a budget too far out of balance, and leading, in turn, to deep cuts in services.
But frankness also requires scrutiny of Garcetti's role in beginning to correct the problems. For the most part, he has performed well. As council president, he worked behind the scenes to awaken his colleagues to the depth of the city's financial crisis and to take action they did not want to take, imposing layoffs and requiring those remaining in the workforce to shoulder more of the burden of their medical and pension benefits. At times when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa should have been on hand to close difficult negotiations, the task was left to Garcetti, and he came through. He antagonized his allies in labor, not because he wanted to but because he saw that he had to. That fact undermines the too-common chatter that he lacks backbone.
His style as council president was not always satisfying to outside observers, who like to hear leaders talk tough or watch them crack heads. Garcetti used finesse. He knew who he was leading, he knew how to get from them what was needed and he knew how to count votes. He knew how to get the job done, and he did it — or at least as much of it as could be done at the time. Los Angeles will look in vain for its Ed Koch or its Richard Daley, because the job here simply isn't tailored for that kind of swagger. Successful mayors of Los Angeles — like Tom Bradley — must be experts in the art of finesse. Garcetti is such an expert.
Salma Hayek will be pleased. The paper gives props for "Garcetti's stewardship of Council District 13," and for his promotion of livable city measures. The endorsement says that Jan Perry has many of the same qualities, then asks itself why the Times did not endorse her: "In large part because her strengths are also her weaknesses, and they too often undermine her," citing Perry's losing fight with Council President Herb Wesson. The LAT says Kevin James is interesting but his critiques and ideas are those a radio talk host, not a serious leader. Emanuel Pleitez, says the paper, "is a long way from being ready to lead a great city."
As for Wendy Greuel, the Times calls her smart and ambitious, and says she has enjoyed "the built-in advantage of being city government's official critic" — but is no Laura Chick. "Greuel has been overly cautious and less effective than she could have been," the editorial says. "It is hard to see how she would rise to the challenge as mayor given her record as controller." Ouch. Greuel late this week said she picked up the endorsement of Biz Fed, the business group formed a few years to counter the influence of labor in local politics.
On Friday, former mayor Richard Riordan endorsed Kevin James. “Kevin is the only candidate capable of creating real pension reform for the City of Los Angeles,” Riordan said in a statement. "His complete independence from the special interest groups at City Hall will allow Kevin to establish real change for L.A. I am confident in Kevin’s abilities to turn this city around and lead us toward prosperity just like we did when I was elected Mayor. “
Previously in Campaign 2013:
Greuel endorsed for mayor by Daily News and VICA *
Greuel gets Police Protective League endorsement *