Mayoral candidate Kevin James said Saturday that he would be “thrilled” if the Texas billionaire who has bankrolled a Super PAC supporting his bid would donate more money in the closing days of the race.
“If Harold Simmons wants to drop another million, it can certainly come quickly but I have no idea whether it’s in the bank or not, but I would love to hear about it,” James said while nibbling on bacon at the Original Pantry Café in downtown Los Angeles.
“With the ad that’s produced, if Harold Simmons sees just how close we are to making this runoff [and donates], it can be I’m sure quickly put on television and radio, and I’d be thrilled to see that,” he said.
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Simmons has donated $600,000 to Better Way L.A., an independent committee that is backing James’ bid. Candidates and independent committees cannot legally coordinate, but they frequently use the media to send signals.
James doesn’t have the money to go on air, but Better Way L.A. has been airing television ads promoting James’ candidacy for more than a week that have boosted his standing in the race.
The committee on Friday reported dismal fund-raising numbers in city disclosure documents, raising only $9,700 during the last reporting period and $64,000 cash on hand during the final days before the March 5 primary. It takes at least a couple hundred thousand dollars to air a decent number of ads in Los Angeles for a week., so without a new infusion of cash, the ads will likely stop when James needs them the most.
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James made the remarks after greeting voters at the Original Pantry Café with former Mayor Richard Riordan, who owns the restaurant.
Unfortunately, many of the diners at the downtown landmark were not from Los Angeles. James met visitors from as far away as Korea and Great Britain, and many from communities outside of Los Angeles.
“I’ve seen your commercials,” Susan Friedman told James and he happily interjected, “OK good!”
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“But I live in Orange County, so sorry,” the Huntington Beach resident concluded.
“Well, tell everybody you know,” James said.
Greeting a family from East Texas, James advised, “Spent lot of money in our city, and don’t get a parking ticket, all right?”
But some Angelenos whom James ran into were amenable to his candidacy, notably because of his endorsement by Riordan.
Hector Cano, 61, said he would likely vote for James.
“I haven’t gotten into the race yet but if he’s following Mr. Riordan’s steps, he will be a good man,” said the Van Nuys resident. Riordan “was a great mayor.”
David Impastato agreed.
“I’ll be voting for you,” the 71-year-old Park La Brea resident told James.
“The endorsement from him means a lot because I’m a great admirer of what he did here,” the retiree said.
Riordan weighed in late in the contest, not giving his nod until Feb. 15.
“I had to make sure he had a chance of winning,” Riordan said. “He’s the only one that has a way to keep our city out of bankruptcy.”
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-- Seema Mehta
Photo: Kevin James participates in a mayoral debate at the Cal State Los Angeles on Feb. 18. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times