L.A. Votes: Hollywood, Texas billionaire weigh in on mayor's race
Los Angeles' election day is rapidly approaching. That's clear from the candidates' frenzied schedules, the money pouring into increasingly ubiquitous television campaign ads and the glossy pitches and hit pieces piling into mailboxes.
Spending by independent groups not controlled by the candidates just topped $1.5 million. And another fundraising reporting period ended Saturday, after potential donors were bombarded with last-minute pleas for cash. The latest financial numbers will be available later this week.
The candidates also are touting their most recent endorsements. Eric Garcetti got the nod from the L.A. Times' editorial board. Kevin James has the backing of former Mayor Richard Riordan. And Wendy Greuel received the backing of a young Latino Democrats group in the Valley, a local Teamsters union and a Realtors' coalition.
With just over two weeks before the March 5 election day, the candidates hopscotched across the city all weekend, opening new field offices, speaking at an education event at a downtown middle school, marching in a Chinese New Year parade and attending Sunday services at an African American church.
Here are other developments in the mayoral race as reported by The Times:
Texas billionaire Harold Simmons has no obvious business in the city of Los Angeles but is bankrolling the Super PAC that just began airing TV ads for James, an attorney and former talk show host. The sole Republican in the race, James is considered a long shot in heavily Democratic L.A. But backing from Simmons -- a major GOP donor who has helped fund some controversial campaigns in the past -- could boost James' profile.
Hollywood has tended to avoid city elections in favor of national contests. But this year the likes of Will Ferrell, Salma Hayek and Steven Spielberg have weighed in. A Times analysis found actors, producers, directors and other industry players have given some $900,000 committees supporting the candidates.
City Controller Greuel, a front-runner in the mayoral contest, played a pivotal role in blocking a Home Depot project as a City Council member, but failed to mention during the heated public debate her interest in a family construction supply business. There was no potential conflict, she says.
Times reporters visited three battleground areas -- the Westside, the West Valley and Wilmington -- to talk with voters and found common complaints and big expectations.
Normally, the hottest races are those with no incumbent seeking reelection. But the contest for city attorney is intense, with incumbent Carmen Trutanich facing a strong challenge from former state Assemblyman Mike Feuer, who leads in fundraising.
Candidates hoping to replace termed-out 9th District Councilwoman Jan Perry, who's running for mayor, met in their first debate, laying out positions on public safety and economic development, and weighing in on the proposed sales-tax hike on the March ballot.
Columnist Steve Lopez sat down with one of the most powerful non-elected players in city politics -- DWP union boss Brian D'Arcy.
The mayoral candidates meet again tonight in a KABC televised debate hosted by the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State Los Angeles. They've tended to be on best behavior during broadcast faceoffs, but as the campaign clock runs down, the gentility might give way.
-- Seema Mehta
Comments, questions or tips on city elections? Tweet me at @LATSeema
Photo: Los Angeles mayoral candidates debating last month at UCLA's Royce Hall. From left are Jan Perry, Kevin James, Eric Garcetti, Wendy Greuel and Emanuel Pleitez. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times