On 3/5/2013 voters will go to the polls in the second largest city in the U.S.A to elect a new Mayor, City Attorney, Controller and half of the City Council. We also get to vote for members of the LAUSD School Board and the LACCD Community Colleges Board. This should be a big deal, especially with the open seat in the Mayor's office. Antonio Villaraigosa is termed out as are the Controller and several Councilmembers. If this were San Francisco or New York the campaign would really be heating up a few days before the primary elections. But here is L.A. more people followed the race for the Oscars or the struggles of our NBA teams than the local elections. While that is a bit dispiriting for those of us who believe in civic involvement it means that our votes are more powerful because so few other Angelenos vote. Continue with me past the fleur d'Kos to learn more about the election contests. The top two candidates in each race will go on to the runoff elections in May unless someone gets 50%+1 in the primary.
Los Angeles is a gigantic city and is also a rather large collection of neighborhoods with many different kinds of issues and interest groups. There are regions of the city that are so different from each other that it is hard to believe that they are in the same city. Even the climate is drastically different between areas of the city. Where I live in the San Fernando Valley is much hotter and drier than along the coast in Venice or San Pedro. The geography of L.A. is more complex because it is sometimes hard to even know which city you live in. Hollywood and North Hollywood are neighborhoods of the city of L.A. while West Hollywood is its own city. Most of the San Fernando Valley is L.A. but the town of San Fernando is a city as are the much larger cities of Burbank and Glendale to the east. San Pedro, where the L.A. Harbor is located, is connected to the rest of the city by an umbilical cord that is only four blocks wide. There are historical reasons for some of our geographic quirks, but that is outside the purpose of this story. It is enough to say that civic involvement is less likely if you don't know what city is responsible for your area.
Besides the regional differences are a variety of ethnic/religious/racial groups. A typical Angeleno, if there is such a thing, would be a mixture of some different groups. The largest group are Latinos, maybe 40 to 50% of the populace. There are a lot of variations among Latinos. Mexicans and Mexican-Americans are the largest national origin but there are hundreds of thousands of Central Americans, especially Salvadorans, and people from all over Latin America. There are many immigrants among these groups but also many California and U.S. born citizens who have different concerns than immigrants. There is a large generation of CA born children of immigrants who are coming of age and getting involved in the political process. The growth of Latino political power is one of the big stories of 21st century California politics.
Anglos (non-Latino white folks) are still a very important part of the L.A. electorate. While they are maybe 30 to 40% of the residents of the city Anglos are probably still a majority or at least a plurality of the actual voters. There are different kinds of white people, including some conservatives in the western SFV and scattered around the city. The GOP base in L.A. is not as weak as in San Francisco, but outside of council districts 3 and 12 it is hard to get elected as a Republican. (The local races are officially nonpartisan, but people mostly vote for people from their party). Among Democratic leaning Anglos the most important ethnic group is probably the large and politically active Jewish community. Jews are especially numerous in West Los Angeles and the southern parts of the Valley. Another important community are the Armenians, especially in the east Valley and Hollywood. L.A. isn't as strongly Italian as S.F. or Irish as Boston, but we do have all kinds of people here.
African Americans are still around 10 to 15% of the population and are an important electoral presence because of their relatively high rate of voter participation. The areas that used to be mostly Black are now very mixed with Latinos the majority in most places. Asians are growing in number, now over 10% or so of the population though maybe less of the electorate. The largest Asian-Pacific Islander groups include Koreans and Filipinos as well as the long-established Chinese and Japanese communities. Los Angeles is home to many Native Americans (including the largest Navajo community outside the Navajo Nation) and also Middle Easterners (including the largest Iranian community outside their home country.) L.A. is one of the world's most diverse cities.
To win elections in this town you need to build coalitions among different communities, not just do well in your own area. You also have to have some support from different economic communities or else you will be Some Dude that nobody knows but gets a few votes because your name sounds cool. Emanual Pleitez? That's a cool sounding name! One of the most important interest groups is organized Labor, especially the city workers' unions. The key union is the IBEW local that represents the LADWP utility workers. The Department of Water and Power is the cash cow of the city. Socialized electricity and water gives us lower rates than nearby private utilities but pays their workers very well. IBEW#18 wants to keep it that way. The other city unions are important too, but the IBEW has the biggest bankroll. Developers and other business interests who do business (or want to do business) with the city are an important source of campaign contributions. Entertainment is the industry that made L.A. famous and is still an important engine of the local economy. There are a lot of local jobs at stake as well as the glamour of celebrities and their fundraising abilities. My favorite celebrity endorsement this year: Dick Van Dyke is endorsing Jan Perry for Mayor. He was in Mary Poppins! (the first movie I can remember from my childhood). He had Mary Tyler Moore on his show! He's a flippin' living legend! That is almost enough to get me vote for Jan Perry...
L.A. has its political party organizations, both real ones and fake slate cards. The GOP ones are unknown to me but there are various Democratic clubs and organizations. The LACDP (county party committee) is most important, followed by regional groups like DP/SFV (Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley) and larger clubs like the Stonewall Democratic Club. These organizations have actual members, unlike the fake groups who send out slate cards. Slate cards are advertising mailers that make "endorsements" based on contributions from candidates and ballot measures. They try to sound like they are representing a group with views aligned with the voters they target: there are Democratic and GOP and independent mailers as well as ones for seniors, women, environmentalists and so forth. There are a few real slate cards: The LACDP and DP/SFV sometimes send out slates as do the L.A. League of Conservation Voters and Sierra Club. You have to read the fine print. These can have a real impact on lower profile races like City Attorney, Controller and the LACCD Board of Trustees.
OK this introductory part went on longer than I expected, now it is off to the races. The headliner is the race for L.A. Mayor.
Mayor of Los Angeles: There are three main insider (experienced) candidates and two notable outsiders as well as Some Dudes. The most likely to make the runoff are Wendy Greuel, the current Controller (chief financial officer for the city) and a former Councilmember from CD 2 in the east SFV, and Eric Garcetti, who represents CD 13 (Hollywood, Silver Lake, Echo Park) on the City Council. Next is Councilmember Jan Perry from CD 9 which is part of Downtown and South L.A. The two outsiders are Kevin James, the Gay Okie GOP talk show host and the aforementioned Emanuel Pleitez, a young high-tech executive whose parents were from El Salvador and Mexico.
Greuel and Garcetti have raised the most money, easily over $3 million each. Perry has over $1 million, enough to send out mailers but who hasn't run TV commercials (at least that I have seen). James has under a million bucks, but benefited from an independent expenditure campaign funded by rich Texans. That brought in close to a million dollars but well short of their goal of $4 million. I saw their ad once. It features the voice from the Demon Sheep ad ominously intoning about the city's budget crisis and blaming it all on the incumbents. Pleitez has raised over a quarter million bucks, not enough for TV or much mail but he has a core group of dedicated volunteers and has run around the city, campaigning especially in low income communities that are neglected by the other campaigns. He also has the only Spanish name among the contenders, which has to be worth a few points. I don't see either James or Pleitez making the runoff of the top two vote getters. Also there is no chance that anyone will get 50% + 1 to avoid the runoff and get elected today.
Eric Garcetti is the son of former District Attorney Gil Garcetti. Despite his Italian surname he is half Mexican and half Jewish. (This is L.A. not S.F--even our Italians are Mexican!). He is probably the more progressive of the major candidates,and has more of the Democratic and environmentalist endorsements than the other two insiders. He has support from the entertainment industry and is strong in the LGBT community. He has been on the Council since 2001 but is now termed out (as are Perry and Greuel from their jobs). He has a strong grassroots campaign but his TV commercials have been somewhat lackluster. He has the endorsement of the L.A. Times, for what that is worth. He should do well in his district, among Latinos and Jews and among Democratic and progressive voters.
Wendy Greuel has most of the Democratic endorsements that Garcetti didn't get (and some they share like the co-endorsement from the League of Conservation Voters), and a base among Anglos in the Valley. She isn't Jewish, but her husband is (so she is Jew-ish). She or Perry would be the first woman Mayor of L.A. Greuel has the support of most of the city worker unions including the IBEW. They have run an independent expenditure campaign supoporting her. My friend who works for the DWP said only half-joking that "You should vote for Wendy. It's important. We bought and paid for her." Her TV ads highlight her work as Controller rooting out wasteful city expenditures (of course her opponents dispute her figures.) She has entertainment industry support, too. She used to work for DreamWorks. I think her media campaign is stronger than Eric's and her commercials are running more often. They may be continuing their struggle until the May runoff. I see Wendy and Eric as most likely the top two.
Jan Perry has an outside chance of making the runoff if she does really well in the Black community in and around her district. She is a little more conservative than the others, with more support from the Downtown business interests than labor. It is interesting that two of the more conservative Democrats on the Council are African American; Perry and former LAPD Chief Bernard Parks (who ran for Mayor unsuccessfully in the past). Perry is like the embodiment of the old Tom Bradley coalition, she is both Black and Jewish (converted from Protestantism as a young adult). She comes off as a warm and likeable person in the debates. There were dozens of debates all over the city, so it wasn't all just slate cards and 30 second TV spots. Perry is not up on TV (at least that I've seen, maybe she has cable in her targeted areas.) She has sent some mailers and even has some inserted in with subscription copies of the Times. She hopes to get the votes of English speaking older voters, a variation on the Jim Hahn coalition that won in 2001. I don't see it happening for her this time, but I have been wrong before. I might be underestimating the power of the Van Dyke!
I am supporting Eric, but it wouldn't be the end of the world if Wendy or Jan becomes Mayor. My mom and her sister are supporting Wendy, partially because she is a woman and from the Valley. My father is for Eric. I predict an order of finish of Wendy, Eric, GOP dude, Jan and Emanuel.
City Attorney: Here the choice is clear. The best candidate is Mike Feuer, my former Councilmember and CA Assemblymember. He has also led a public interest law firm, Bet Tzedek, and is a creative and energetic progressive. I like Mike; his is my strongest endorsement on the ballot. The incumbent is one of those rare GOP officials, Carmen "Nothing I Say is True" Trutanich. Trutanich came in third place missing the runoff when he ran for District Attorney. He might do that again as there is a self-funded candidate named Greg Smith who has some good TV spots.
Controller: The big name in the race is termed-out Councilmember Dennis Zine, another GOPer (from the Southwest SFV CD 3). He wants to be a "Tough Controller for Tough Times" and is up on TV. Don't vote for Zine; most of the Democrats are supporting Ron Galperin, who has served on a city commission to increase government efficiency. He is a very likeable gay man who previously ran for Council. He has the Stonewall endorsement and LACDP and DP/SFV. There are also Some Dudes running. My hope is that they will combine to deny Zine a majority today and take it to a runoff.
City Council: The odd numbered seats are up this year. It is a four year term. There are quite a few vacancies since the term limits have finally pushed out incumbents like Zine, Garcetti and Perry. Some races are impossible for me to figure out, like CD 13 where there are about a dozen candidates for Garcetti's old seat. I don't have much information about CD 1 (Eastside), CD 9 (Downtown) or CD 15 (San Pedro, Watts).
CD 3 (the Zine seat) should go from Red to Blue with Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield as the leading candidate against Some Dudes. The only question is whether he wins a majority today or goes to a runoff. CD 5 (Encino to Beverlywood) is the first re-election race of Paul Koretz, who is one of the better members of the Council. If you live there vote for Paul. I was redistricted out of the Fightin' Fifth so I have no vote for City Council this year. CD 7 (Northeast SFV) is open, with former Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes the biggest name. CD 11 (Westside) is open as Bill Rosendahl is leaving for health reasons. His staffer Mike Bonin is the best candidate there.
LAUSD School Board: I don't follow LAUSD too closely, but got to sit in on some of DP/SFV's interviews of candidates. I have no information about LAUSD District 2 where Monica Garcia is running again. In LAUSD 4 I support Steve Zimmer, the incumbent and a former teacher, over challenger Kate Anderson, who has raised big money from education "reform" groups. In LAUSD 6 my friend Antonio Sanchez is running (also supported by the big money people). The other good candidates there are Monica Ratliff, a fifth grade teacher, and Monica Cano who has worked for the district overseeing construction projects.
LACCD Community Colleges Board of Trustees: These are elected districtwide so vote for all offices. LACCD 2 Mike Eng. He is a former Assemblymember and husband of the great Representative Judy Chu. LACCD 4 Ernest Moreno is a retired college president running against a rightwing perennial candidate. LACCD 6 Nancy Pearlman is the only incumbent running for re-election. She is a bit eccentric, but has been a leader in getting the colleges to adopt green building standards in their construction projects. Most of the Democratic endorsements are for David Vela, a school board member. With four candidates she will be forced into a runoff most likely.
Ballot Measures: The big one is Measure A, which is a half cent sales tax increase to fund city services. Sales taxes are not the best funding source, but the question is whether it is worse to deal with the cuts in city services. I am reluctantly voting Yes, but left it neutral in my Zack's Picks email newsletter.
That's the L.A. ballot; I'm not going to go anywhere near West Hollywood politics, which is very contentious. If you live in Calabasas vote for Jody Thomas for Council in the city of pumpkins.
Perhaps the readers can provide more details about some areas and argue about the merits of the candidates and measures. You can even have a WeHo flame war but I won't get involved with that. Since this is DKos Elections you can also use the comments as a predictions thread, but I am not promising babka or Langer's pastrami to y'all. I have to go to work about noon so I can't monitor the comments after that but thanks for reading this (longer than I expected) diary and thanks for voting!