On the day after Los Angeles voters eliminated the also-rans for mayor and other offices, the survivors began jockeying for position for the 11-week sprint to the runoff. The General Municipal Election, as it's called, is scheduled for May 21. The low turnout in Tuesday's Primary Nominating Election, which will likely total out at less than 20% of registered voters in the final count, has set off more then the usual amount of civic hand wringing. Our roundup of Campaign 2013 news and observations follows. Also see the LA Observed Politics page.
The candidates signaled they are going to keep trying to convince voters they are the most fiscally responsible choice. The Times lede, from Michael Finnegan, Seema Mehta and Kate Linthicum:
The Los Angeles mayoral runoff opened Wednesday with Democrats Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel fighting over who can best craft an image of fiscal restraint in a cash-strapped city whose voters refuse to raise taxes to maintain public services.
Garcetti...sought to use Greuel's broad support among organized labor to portray her as bowing to its demands for scarce public money. Pummeled in attack ads by Greuel's labor backers, Garcetti vowed to stand up to union interests as they seek raises for city workers, particularly those at the Department of Water and Power.
Greuel — who finished second with 29%, despite more than $2 million spent by union allies on her behalf — sought to capitalize on the enormous political clout of organized labor while avoiding the impression that she would cater to its wishes. On Wednesday, Greuel, the city controller, was unabashed about embracing her labor supporters.
Dakota Smith in the Daily News:
City Controller Wendy Greuel and City Councilman Eric Garcetti wasted no time hitting the campaign trail Wednesday, trading jabs over union influence a day after voters picked them to face off in May's mayoral showdown.
Greuel launched her runoff campaign with a big endorsement - the Service Employees International Union 721, which represents 10,000 city workers and is known for its effectiveness in grass-roots campaigning.
That in turn triggered sniping from the Garcetti campaign that Greuel would be beholden to special interests like city unions.
Here's the illustration the LA Weekly is using to tease its election page:
In actual news:
- Service Employees International Union Local 721 dropped its neutrality and endorsed Greuel. In the primary, the union for 10,000 city workers prominently interviewed both candidates then didn't endorse. "I am so grateful to the workers who every single day provide the services to our residents," said Greuel on Wednesday."Let's not demonize them. Let's not divide our city." LA Weekly
- All three of the city’s biggest labor unions now support Greuel, notes Frank Stoltze of KPCC.
- Garcetti threw in the towel on the controversy over his family trust's lease of oil rights under a lot in Beverly Hills to Venoco. Greuel demanded last week that Garcetti give up the lease and apologize to environmentalists and students at Beverly Hills High School. On Tuesday, Garcetti assigned his interest in the lease to family friend John Stillman, a Newport Beach attorney, the LA Times reports. No money changed hands, according to Stillman.
- Garcetti, interviewed on his iPad by Jacob Soboroff on HuffPost Live, would not rule out drone use by the LAPD and said that every police car should be equipped with a video camera. HuffPost Live
- No endorsement decisions were revealed by either Jan Perry or Kevin James, who each received about 16 percent of the vote, and from much different bases.
- Garcetti and Greuel "have logical routes forward for the runoff, and both can look to historical precedent for proof they might win." Jim Newton op-ed column/LAT
The pair didn't make news Wednesday, although the Trutanich campaign made clear it would continue to make an issue of Feuer's unusual a "no-win, no-pay" arrangement with his campaign consultant. Trutanich says it should be reported as an in-kind contribution on disclosure forms if allowed at all. The Feuer campaign said it got the OK first from the City Ethics Commission.
This race remains close for the bragging rights to say he finished first in the primary. Not that it will matter in the end. No news Wednesday, but here's Jean Merl in the LA Times:
Having served on two city panels to promote efficiency, Galperin said, he had developed "very specific ways to go about fixing" the finances of a city with stubborn budget problems.
"Voters in L.A. have a clear choice," Galperin said, between a politician who spent 12 years on the City Council, causing the problems we are now facing, versus someone who has the skills set and experience needed to clean this mess up."
Both candidates will try to sell themselves to voters as the best man to eke the most out of limited city dollars. The relatively obscure office, one of three posts elected citywide, is essentially the city's fiscal watchdog. It has the power to audit most city departments but cannot act on its own recommendations; that falls to the City Council and mayor.
Zine said he is confident he will prevail if he can "get our message out citywide about what we will do in the controller's office to make the city a better place."
He said the task of finding efficiencies becomes all the more urgent with the failure Tuesday of Measure A, which would have raised the sales tax a half-cent to help ease the city's budget problems and preserve police and fire services. (Zine opposed the measure.)
First off, the voting rate was not 16 percent as many media have misreported. Nor was that the percentage who turned up to vote at polls. The figure of 16.11 percent posted by the City Clerk reflects the percentage of registered voters whose votes — mail-in or in person — were counted on Tuesday night. There might be as many as 80,000 votes yet to be counted, so the final share of registered voters to take part could be closer to 20 percent.
That's still not good. But it's not so unusual for LA either. Only 17.9 percent voted in the primary in 2009, when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa won reelection. So this year could actually have a higher rate of voter participation.
Garcetti told Jacob Soboroff on HuffPost Live Wednesday that after Tuesday's turnout he's in favor of looking at moving the odd-year city elections to the even years and aligning the mayor's election with the presidential election. HuffPost
Steve Lopez columnized in the LA Times that it's fodder for late-night TV talk show jokes. "Being laid back is a lifestyle that takes some thought, as well as the right sneakers. Blowing off an election is just plain lazy. Mail-in ballots are available to one and all. You can vote without ever getting off the couch."
The Times assigned reporters James Rainey and Laura Nelson to the more reported-out thumbsucking:
Why does the second-largest city take so little interest in its politics? It appears to be a combination of culture, timing and the structure of local political offices.
The city's far-flung borders confuse some residents, who don't necessarily know whether they live in L.A., a neighboring suburb or an unincorporated section of the county. The mayor has an important role, but not nearly as pivotal as in New York, where the chief executive controls not only public safety and other basic services but also schools and social services.
Even in the 2005 election, a watershed contest that elected Antonio Villaraigosa as the first Latino mayor in modern times, only 28.5% of voters turned out in the March primary.
Analysts note that the city's off-year elections fall just months after voters have been absorbed by presidential voting. They simply can't engage with another set of politicians, the theory goes, roughly four months after putting someone in the White House.
Finally, L.A. doesn't conduct partisan races, or feature the ubiquitous organizations that engage citizens in other cities.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's $3.9 million war chest only won one school board seat, helping Monica Garcia retain her post. LAT/Blume
Leaders of rival education movements claimed victory Wednesday for returning two incumbents to the Los Angeles Unified School District board, while finalists for a third seat prepared to campaign anew for the May runoff election. DN/Jones
Organized labor succeeded in electing three of its chosen candidates to the City Council and reelecting a fourth, "allowing unions to retain their firm hold on the lawmaking body." LAT/Zahniser
Because Rep. Tony Cardenas waited to resign his seat on the City Council, the election to succeed him in the Valley's 6th district has to be held as a special election on the same day as the general election. If there is a runoff between the top two finishers, it will be held July 23.
It's viewed as a contest between school board member Nury Martinez [left, with Wendy Greuel in Pacoima] and Cindy Montanez, the former state assemblywoman and city commissioner who previously served as a city council member in the city of San Fernando. Here is the candidate order chosen by lottery, and the official ballot titles, per the LA City Clerk's office.
WALTER ALEXANDER ESCOBAR, Student
NURY MARTINEZ, School Boardmember
CINDY MONTANEZ, Businesswoman/Environmental Advocate
RICHARD VALDEZ, Businessman
DEREK WALEKO, Senior Government Advisor
J. ROY GARCIA, Community Activist/Businessman