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L.A. mayor candidate Perry treats Villaraigosa as friend, then foe

February 13, 2013 |  5:23 pm

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Does mayoral candidate Jan Perry think that current Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is a really good guy to have in her corner? Or maybe she thinks hizzoner’s support marks the recipient as another hapless representative of the status quo at City Hall.

It’s hard to tell which Perry thinks from a pair of recent mailers delivered by her campaign.

The Los Angeles city councilwoman came out with a mailer on Tuesday that shows her side by side with Mayor V. Both are grinning. The copy quotes Villaraigosa, in English and Spanish, saying: “Jan Perry would make a good mayor.”

It doesn’t say it’s an endorsement, though a voter might read it that way. But that would be wrong because a) Villaraigosa has said he does not intend to endorse anyone, at least in the March 5 primary and b) he actually told NBC4 political reporter Conan Nolan: "Eric Garcetti would make a good mayor. Jan Perry would make a good mayor. Wendy Greuel would make a good mayor."

Perry’s mailer somehow neglected to mention the other two.

But the intrigue only begins there because Perry — who has been positioning herself as the truth teller among a gallery of panderers — sent quite a different message with a mailer a week ago. That one showed rival Wendy Greuel and Villaraigosa arm in arm. The headline: “Wendy Greuel: Brought to you by the same people who brought you Antonio Villaraigosa.”

The piece highlights a quote from a Los Angeles Times story: “Wendy Greuel would be Antonio Villaraigosa’s third term in many ways, and that’s a bad thing.” That observation might appear to come from Times City Hall reporter David Zahniser, since it’s right below his byline on the cut-and-paste presentation. But Kevin James -- an entertainment lawyer and another rival for mayor -- actually took the shot at Greuel, who serves as city controller.

“You just can't trust Jan Perry,” said Shannon Murphy, spokeswoman for Greuel. “She’s hoping voters don't find out that she changes her tune depending on who she's talking to. In a mailer to some voters, she attacks the mayor, but in a mailer to Latinos, she hugs him. Clearly the Perry campaign doesn’t believe its own message. Why should voters?”

So how can Perry both embrace and shun Villaraigosa, the man she hopes to replace in the executive suite at City Hall? The answer: by targeting.

The mailer attacking Greuel as a Villaraigosa toady appears to be aimed at conservative voters, many of them in the San Fernando Valley. Any tie to the over-taxing, electric-rate-raising fools at City Hall lands like a stink bomb in those households.

The Spanish-English mailer, meanwhile, clearly targeted Latino voters, who played a key role in 2005 in making Villaraigosa the city’s first Latino mayor in modern times. In front of that audience, Perry appears only too happy to snuggle up next to the mayor.

With considerably less campaign cash to fight with, Perry has placed high hopes on a series of mailers, which have been aimed at many different groups, including Korean Americans, Armenian Americans and others. Each piece is targeted at a specific demographic. No one said the content had to be on target.

Perry’s campaign consultant, Eric Hacopian, defended the mailers. “No person who is a public figure is universally loved, so it isn’t that difficult to decide that you would highlight someone with one group of people," Hacopian said, “and that with some other group of people you wouldn’t highlight them. This is not rocket science. This is campaign 101.”

He also said Greuel and City Councilman Garcetti would be free to note that Villaraigosa had said they would make good mayors. “If they were smart,” he said, “they would have done the same thing we did.”


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-- James Rainey

Times political writer James Rainey will be filing dispatches from the campaign trail during the 2013 Los Angeles election season. You can follow him on twitter.com/LATimesrainey