Monday, March 2, 2009

Elections Tomorrow in Los Angeles

Today WAYLA reports on local politics from Los Angeles.

Voters in the City of Angles will go to the polls tomorrow for local elections. Three races in particular - City Attorney, City Controller, and the District 5 Council Seat - are hotly contested.

City Attorney

Councilman Jack Weiss is facing three opponents in the race for City Attorney. According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, while Weiss was a good prosecutor (when he practiced) he does not have a lot of friends.

Complaints about Weiss' accessibility, his close alliance with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and his openness to development began rolling in during the first round of questions. [At a recent forum Weiss missed] one opponent, Deputy Dist. Atty. David Berger, took out a photograph of Weiss and jokingly invited the audience to throw darts.

…Councilman Greig Smith said Weiss would be the first to admit that he's been "difficult to work with at times -- that's an understatement." Said Councilwoman Jan Perry: "I don't deal with him. It's easier not to."

Some council members privately grouse about Weiss' dismissive manner, his frequent absences from the council floor and his tendency to disappear when council members are honoring residents who have recently died.

And while many of these colleagues are willing to praise him for his skills as a prosecutor, he has had difficulty winning community support. One opponent, Holmby Hills, has an array of important endorsements from the Police Chief, labor unions, gun-control advocates and women’s organizations.

Sometimes experience isn’t everything.

City Controller

The race for City Controller has become particularly ugly in recent days after Councilwoman and candidate Wendy Greuel released this ad:

Her opponent responded with a press conference the next day:

Patsaouras has also been getting hit by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who has been at odds with him since he was appointed to the board of the Department of Water and Power 3 years ago. A recent union mailer criticized his supervision of a Metropolitan Transit Authority headquarter constructions. "Nick's development even included a bust to memorialize him," the mailer said.

It now seems that both candidates are running the risk of appearing too negative.

City Council - District 5

Meanwhile, the race to replace Weiss on the City Council is wide open. Most candidates are trying to distance themselves from Weiss. Neighborhood council member David Vahedi has earned some support from a coalition of groups that attempted a recall campaign against Weiss in 2007. Vahedi ran against Weiss in 2005.

Yet Vahedi has his work cut out for him. The candidate with the most name recognition, former State Assemblyman Paul Koretz, is running a tough campaign on a very anti-Weiss platform. He has also picked up the support from the County’s Labor Federation and has a detailed pro-homeowner plan to protect local residents hit hard by the housing market crash.

And then there is the former Chamber of Commerce chief, Robyn Ritter Simon, who has touted the fact that she is the only mother in the race. Playing on that theme she has “made public safety a central theme of her campaign, saying that it remains the district's top priority, despite debates about traffic and development.”

Whether the Westside district will go with a homeowner message, be drawn to a message of motherhood, decide on who will be least like their incumbent, or go with one of the three other candidates will only be realized after Tuesday.

Other Races

Most other races in the city are much more predictable. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is expected to win without difficulty, as do most sitting members on the city council. That does not mean they aren’t spending money. One Councilman, Eric Garcetti opted to run this ad before Tuesday’s primary.

But according to the LA Times yesterday, the uphill battle that the challengers face aren’t discouraging them. Because they do not have the money that the incumbents do (some have less than 1% of the funds their opponents have) they are using the internet to spread their word.

As recently as two months ago, David R. Hernandez said, he didn't even know what Facebook was. Today, he uses the popular Internet social-networking site to help spread the word about his steeply uphill campaign for Los Angeles mayor in Tuesday's municipal primary.

"I now have about 500 'friends' [on Facebook], and I am able to get them all news about my campaign in less than two minutes," said Hernandez, who also has run for Congress (twice), county supervisor and community college district trustee -- falling short each time.

Another mayoral candidate, David "Zuma Dogg" Saltsburg, has pointed to his use of the internet in his own campaign - updating his blog,, with his own earned media from TV, radio, and newspaper.

But this use of internet will not be enough. Los Angeles is a sprawling city where few residents will search out candidates on the internet.

"Internet technology has created campaign opportunities for underfunded candidates that didn't exist before," said Steven Afriat, a veteran Los Angeles political consultant who is not involved in any of Tuesday's municipal contests. But technology cannot make up for a weak message or an unqualified candidate, Afriat added. Otherwise, he said, "the Internet just becomes the lipstick on the pig."

And, of course, the campaign for Measure B will come to a close tomorrow as well.

Come back to WAYLA on Wednesday to see who wins!

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