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Sacramento veterans dominate L.A. City Council races

March 6, 2013 | 12:52 pm

Assemblyman Bob BlumenfieldThree current and former state lawmakers won their races for Los Angeles City Council outright in Tuesday's primary election while two others were heading into runoffs, raising the possibility that about half of the council's 15 seats could be held by ex-Sacramento veterans.

Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills) prevailed in his race to replace Councilman Dennis Zine in the west San Fernando Valley. Former Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes won his contest in the northeast San Fernando Valley, where Councilman Richard Alarcon will step down this summer.

On the Eastside, former Assemblyman Gil Cedillo appeared headed to a May 21 runoff against council aide Jose Gardea, in the race to replace Councilman Ed Reyes. And in South Los Angeles, state Sen. Curren Price (D-Los Angeles) will be in a runoff with former council aide Ana Cubas.

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Price, who is seeking to replace Councilwoman Jan Perry, said residents wanted "someone who can hit the ground running and bring about some change." Fuentes said the Sacramento candidates will bring expertise to City Hall. And Blumenfield said his constituents did not view his time in Sacramento negatively.

"I live in Woodland Hills. My kids are here, my wife is here, parents live across the street and they see me every day," he said at his election night party. "Nobody in this room feels that I'm a guy from Sacramento."

The council is undergoing its biggest transformation in 12 years. With incumbents stepping down in six of the eight races, dozens of candidates stepped forward to seek seats on the 15-member council, including several who spent time as legislators in Sacramento.

INTERACTIVE MAP: How your neighborhood voted

Two incumbents — Councilmen Paul Koretz, a former state legislator who now represents the Westside, and Joe Buscaino in the harbor district — won handily. Council aide Mike Bonin will replace his boss, Councilman Bill Rosendahl, in the city's coastal district.

Bonin, 45, said Rosendahl's constituents liked his style and agenda and wanted to stay the course in the district, which stretches from Westchester to Pacific Palisades. "I want to continue the work Bill did in building mass transit and empowering neighborhoods and housing the homeless," Bonin said.

This year's campaign was dominated by unlimited spending by labor unions, billboard companies and other special interests. Three-fourths of that money was spent in the three most competitive contests — one to replace Councilman Eric Garcetti in Hollywood, another to replace Reyes and a third to replace Perry. Cubas, who would be the first Latino in 50 years to represent Perry's district, said she wasn't worried about the more than $400,000 in independent expenditures, much of it from unions, being spent on behalf of Price.

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"At the end of the day, it's how do you reach voters," she said. "Money doesn't necessarily mean you can win an election. You have to win the hearts and minds of people."

In Reyes' Westlake-to-Mt. Washington district, Cedillo was buoyed by more than $330,000 in unlimited outside spending by labor unions, the taxicab industry, a billboard company and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. With late absentees and provisions still uncounted, Cedillo would not say whether he expected to reach a majority and avoid a runoff.

"We want to make sure that all the voters were counted," he said. "We sure liked the trends at the end of the night."

In Garcetti's Echo Park-to-Hollywood district, former Garcetti aide Mitch O'Farrell will face former City Commissioner John Choi in the runoff. O’Farrell said he was outspent by “an incredible amount” and yet still came in first. “I represent the experience, the knowledge, the ideas and the hopes of this district,” he said. “That’s what prevailed tonight.”

Cedillo, Choi and Price all were backed by Working Californians, a political action committee aligned with the employee union of the Department of Water and Power.

The last time the council faced so much turnover was in 2001, the year term limits took effect.

Five council members are leaving because of the restrictions. Rosendahl is giving up his council seat to focus on his fight against cancer.

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-- David Zahniser and Dalina Castellanos

Photo: Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield in July 2012. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

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