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Category: elections

L.A. Votes: Building runoff machines, courting endorsements

Photo: Mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti speaks at a news conference on March 6. Credit: Nick Ut / Associated Press

After a frenzy of activity on the campaign trail in recent weeks, culminating in last week’s primary election, the mayoral candidates are focusing on raising money, trotting out new endorsements and courting party and labor loyalists to build their general-election campaign machinery.

Election memoOn Tuesday, Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti courted two key groups-–the most influential labor coalition in the county, and the county Democrats, neither of which endorsed in the primary.

Reflecting the tightness of the race, the county Democratic Party again split on which candidates to endorse in the May 21 runoff election. But a key committee of the county Federation of Labor backed Greuel, setting in motion the procedural votes that will almost certainly result in an official endorsement in the next week. Both candidates vigorously sought the imprimateur of the federation, which represents about 600,000 workers.

FULL COVERAGE: L.A.'s race for mayor

The fight for endorsements-–which can carry financial backing, influence or armies of volunteers-–has intensified in recent days over the parties that did not weigh in before the primary. Now that the field has been whittled down to two, state lawmakers are increasingly making their decision on who to back in the mayoral contest. Greuel rolled out the backing of two influential African American pastors, and Garcetti rolled out the backing of some labor unions and the former leader of the state Democratic party.

The lull in campaigning is likely to be short-lived. Greuel plans to stump Wednesday morning with women and minority business leaders, while Garcetti will speak at a luncheon for the L.A. Metropolitan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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-- Seema Mehta

Comments, questions or tips on city elections? Tweet me at @LATSeema

Photo: Mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti speaks at a news conference on March 6. Credit: Nick Ut / Associated Press

Greuel, Garcetti courted big labor group for endorsement

As she sought the endorsement of the county’s most influential public employee union Tuesday, mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel dismissed criticism of her backing from organized labor, saying unions are not political "baggage."

“When I go out to parts of the city and they say to me, ‘I’m not sure I can vote for you because you’re the labor candidate.’ Guess what? I’m proud to have labor support," said told the political committee of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, an umbrella group representing 600,000 workers. 

"You know what they also say?" Greuel added. " ‘You’re a special interest. Ooh. That’s horrible,’ " she said, mockingly. “I’m proud that you’re a special interest. And you’re a special interest for the working men and women.”

Greuel made the remarks at a closed-door meeting of the labor federation, shortly before 70% of the committee voted to give her their endorsement. The Times acquired recordings of portions of the remarks made by both Greuel and her rival, Councilman Eric Garcetti.

The endorsement will not be official until two more votes occur over the next week, but those approvals  are considered largely procedural.

As she has in the past, Greuel accused Garcetti of failing to engage in collective bargaining –- a  reference to a pivotal vote last fall on pensions. That was when city officials hiked the retirement age and scaled back pension benefits for newly hired civilian city workers, over the objections of unions that said the changes had not been properly negotiated. The changes take effect July 1 and are designed to save $4 billion over 30 years.

“It’s about collective bargaining. How important is collective bargaining to all of us? It is the heart and soul of what you stand for,” Greuel told the labor committee.

Garcetti voted to support the pension changes. His spokesman, Jeff Millman, defended the councilman’s handling of the vote on retirement benefits and questioned whether Greuel would side with unions who are now challenging the pension rollback.

“Eric collectively bargained hundreds of millions of dollars in real pension reform. While Ms. Greuel won't say it publicly, it appears she would undo the city's pension reforms,” he said.

In a phone call, Greuel would not say whether she would side with unions that have filed a challenge to the pension changes. But she said she favored both the pension rollback and the collective bargaining process.

"I supported the reforms," she said. "I think there should have been collective bargaining."

As city controller, Greuel did not have to vote on the rollback of benefits for new employees. Officials who supported the pension changes were warned by the labor federation's leader, Maria Elena Durazo, that their votes would “come back and haunt” them.

Garcetti, who has sharply criticized the multimillion-dollar campaign support Greuel has received from city employee unions, argued in Tuesday's meeting that he was not attacking labor.

“I haven’t hit back at labor,” he said. “Let me be clear. The term special interests … is not something I’ve used to attack labor.”

He also argued that he has long supported the cause of labor, such as crafting an ordinance that forbids the opening of nonunion Wal-Mart SuperCenters in the city. “As we speak right now  I’m doing more to promote labor … on issues that you care about than anybody else in this race,” he said.

“But I have more in that plus column that anybody in this race,” he said. “And I’m going to win. I’m going to be the next mayor. And I can’t wait to get to work with each of you, each of you, no matter where you are in this race.”

Once news of the labor federation vote broke, Garcetti’s campaign responded by trumpeting its support from other unions, including Teamsters Joint Council 42, the Communication Workers of America’s Southern California Council, Laborers' Local 300, and the Service Employees International Union’s United Service Workers West.

"We are already making calls and knocking on doors for Eric Garcetti," said Ron Herrera, of the Teamsters' council, said in a statement. Garcetti is the preferred choice of his union, he said, because of the councilman has shown a strong ability to grow jobs in his district.

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Cardinal Mahony tweets request for prayers before papal conclave

PHOTOS: Vatican Conclave 2013

Integrating 21st century technology into a nearly 2,000-year tradition, Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony took to Twitter and his blog Tuesday to ask for prayers as he and 114 other cardinals begin the selection of the next pope.

“Last tweet before moving to Casa Santa Martha, and Mass to Elect a Pope,” Mahony tweeted from his account @CardinalMahony. “First Conclave meeting late Tuesday afternoon. Prayers needed.”

On his blog, Mahony reposted the prayer he and the rest of the cardinals will take Tuesday morning and recounted what’s to come when the cardinals are sequestered in the Sistine Chapel to select a new pope.

PHOTOS: Vatican Conclave 2013

Many have criticized Mahony's participation in the selection process, as recent revelations show he helped cover up years of sexual abuse by priests.

The conclave-–the process where the 115-person College of Cardinals elect the pope-–has taken place in the Sistine Chapel for the last 954 years, Mahony wrote. There have been 12 popes selected in that time.

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Garcetti garners endorsement of Art Torres

Mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti speaks to supporters last week on election night. He has won the endorsement of Art Torres in the mayoral contest against Wendy Greuel.Comparing Eric Garcetti to President Obama, former California Democratic Party chairman and state Sen. Art Torres on Monday endorsed Garcetti for mayor of Los Angeles.

Garcetti will prevail in the runoff against Controller Wendy Greuel, Torres predicted, because, like the president, he holds progressive ideals and is appealing to a younger demographic who will turn out to vote for him.

"He's got the same kind of leadership that the president exhibited,'' Torres said to a small crowd of supporters and Democratic activists gathered outside Casa Torres restaurant in Sylmar. "Eric is going to exhibit that leadership as mayor."

Torres was in the state Legislature for 20 years, representing the east side of Los Angeles first as an Assembly member and later as a senator. He also served as chairman of the California Democratic Party for 13 years, stepping aside in 2009.

Torres said he's known Garcetti most of his life because he worked with the candidate's father, former Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti, on anti-gang and crime laws while in the Legislature. Eric Garcetti showed signs of leadership early on, Torres said, but "I just didn't know he would move up so quickly."

Garcetti is a three-term city councilman. Greuel served on the City Council before becoming controller. They will face off in a May 21 mayoral runoff.

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L.A. Votes: Garcetti, Greuel reach out; how the tax vote varied

How LA voted
After winning spots in the May 21 mayoral runoff, Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti are back on the campaign trail and heavily courting two distinct constituencies -- black Democrats in South Los Angeles and white Republicans in the San Fernando Valley.Election Memo

The candidates are also increasingly highlighting their plans to revitalize the city’s economy -- a reaction, some argue, to widespread criticism that Greuel and Garcetti failed to offer many specifics during the primary.

Many eyes turned to failed mayoral candidates Jan Perry and Kevin James, whose supporters could be key to winning in the May runoff. Perry has not endorsed, but had harsh words for Greuel’s ties to labor. James met with both remaining candidates in recent days as he decides whether to endorse.

FULL COVERAGE: L.A.'s race for mayor

The Times analyzed voter trends in the other big contest on the ballot: the half-cent sales tax increase that L.A. city voters rejected. The results showed a tale of two cities, with voters in the poorest parts of Los Angeles who are most dependent on city services more likely to support the measure, while residents in more affluent swaths were more likely to be against it.

Columnist Steve Lopez weighs in on Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's supporting the sales-tax proposal as vital for retaining key city services, and then claiming that the city’s finances are rosier than believed after the tax failed at the ballot box.

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-- Seema Mehta

Comments, questions or tips on city elections? Tweet me at @LATSeema

Garcetti and Greuel woo James

Let the courtship begin.

Kevin James, the Republican candidate who came in third place in Los Angeles’ mayoral race, will be meeting with the candidates who made the runoff election. James is sitting down with Wendy Greuel on Friday, and with Eric Garcetti over the weekend.

James received nearly 47,000, or 16% of the votes cast. While Garcetti received double that and Greuel nearly did, they will be aggressively courting James for his endorsement. If either Democrat can pull James’ supporters--mostly Republicans and many from the San Fernando Valley, into their column, that puts them close to victory in the May 21 runoff election.

James said that he has not decided whether he will endorse in the runoff, but he has strict criteria for the candidates as he makes up his decision.

“For Ms. Greuel, I need to have some confidence that there’s going to be some semblance of independence between her position as mayor and the public-sector unions,” James said in an interview this week.

Greuel was a major beneficiary of union spending in the race, and on Wednesday picked up the endorsement of a powerful union that represents 10,000 city workers.

“That just means that her hill gets steeper. That doesn’t mean she can’t achieve it,” James said.

“For Mr. Garcetti, I need to have some confidence and belief that he will run the office of mayor differently than he did as council president,”James said.

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Teachers union to vote on aggressive stand against Deasy policies

The Los Angeles teachers union has scheduled an April vote for an initiative that would, if passed, call for a more aggressive posture against the leadership of the L.A. Unified School District.

The goal is to get a majority of teachers to push back against policies adopted by Supt. John Deasy and the Board of Education, while also offering an alternative approach to improving academic achievement in the nation’s second-largest school district.

The effort comes in the wake of this month's school board elections, which left unsettled a joust over the path of future school-improvement efforts. Union-backed incumbent Steve Zimmer prevailed, as did incumbent Monica Garcia, a strong Deasy backer. Deasy likely emerged with a sometimes fragile, but workable majority on most issues.  

“The ‘strategy’ of closed-door negotiations around single issues without a broad public campaign to defend and promote public education is failing miserably,” said union activist David Rapkin in a recent online posting to other teachers. “Out-foxing the enemy at the negotiations table is a losing strategy. It ignores the fact that without building real grassroots power around a broad vision for public education, and a vision that includes our power to wage a popular strike, we cannot win in this political and economic climate.”

The union ballot language speaks of “collaborating with parents, students, school communities, and other educational allies and advocates” on a citywide campaign. It also calls for negotiations with district officials on a range of issues — and ending a defensive strategy attempting to block or modify district proposals as they appear one after another.

The goals include reversing budget cuts affecting jobs and classrooms and ending the practice of re-staffing low-performing schools and minimizing the use of standardized tests. Another target is the use of “value-added” formulas in evaluations, which rate instructors based on how much students have learned.

Continue reading »

L.A. Votes: Runoff rivals dash for cash; Villaraigosa says budget not so bleak

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa -- Irfan Khan--Los Angeles Times
The two candidates who earned a spot in the runoff to be Los Angeles’ next mayor have little time to savor their victory. Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti must immediately start raising money, because unlike in state and federal elections, they were prohibited for raising money for the general election during the primary. Election Memo

And they weren’t allowed to reserve any of the millions of dollars they raised in the primary for the runoff, meaning the candidates started raising new funds within hours of the polls closing Tuesday. Garcetti sent off an email missive before he went to sleep that night, and also one targeting donors who had contributed the maximum of $1,300 in the primary. The morning after, Greuel launched a 72-hour grass-roots fundraising drive urging supporters to “be one of the first” to support the city controller in the general election.

But the independent committees backing their bids face no such restrictions, giving Greuel both a potential financial boost and a messaging problem. The main independent group supporting her is up-and-running, but largely backed by city employee unions, a connection that troubles some voters.

FULL COVERAGE: L.A.'s race for mayor

The termed-out mayor that Greuel and Garcetti are vying to replace, Antonio Villaraigosa has not weighed in on the contest, but said Thursday that he plans to take a “real close look” at both of the candidates.

Villaraigosa was a major proponent of a measure--rejected by voters--to increase the sales tax. Backers said the half-cent hike was vital to avoiding cuts to critical city services. On Thursday, two days after the measure's defeat, Villaraigosa said the city’s deficit didn’t look so bad after all.

The Times looked at where the sales-tax proposal, Proposition A, succeeded and where it failed among city voters. Ben Welsh, an editor with the Times Data Desk, broke down the split.

-- Seema Mehta

Comments, questions or tips on city elections? Tweet me at @LATSeema

Photo: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Credit: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times

L.A. Votes: Runoff campaigns kick off, City Hall girds for more cuts

How LA voted
The mayoral campaign entered a new phase Wednesday, as Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel began positioning themselves for the May 21 runoff. The fellow Democrats fought over who can best craft an image of fiscal restraint in a cash-strapped city whose voters refused to raise taxes to maintain public services. Check out a map by the Los Angeles Times’ Data Desk to see how various parts of the city voted.Election Memo

The candidates spent the day after the election moving around the city. Garcetti, a city councilman who finished first in Tuesday's primary with 33% of the vote, sought to use Greuel's broad support among organized labor to portray her as bowing to its demands for scarce public money. He also offloaded a controversial oil lease that Greuel has tried to hammer him over. Greuel, who finished second with 29%, despite more than $2 million spent by union allies on her behalf, argued that she has fostered a coalition of business and labor support, showing that she has the ability to unite disparate interests and deal with the city’s fiscal woes.

FULL COVERAGE: L.A.'s race for mayor

Meanwhile, attention also was focused on the two candidates who effectively tied for third place -- Kevin James and Jan Perry. While Perry was radio silent throughout the day, James spoke to reporters, saying the campaign had been among the most memorable moments of his life and saying he was undecided about whether to endorse a candidate in the runoff. Perry and James will be closely scrutinized in coming weeks, because their supporters could help tilt the election.

Voters overwhelmingly rejected a sales-tax increase proposal, meaning that the next mayor and city council must be prepared to consider a new round of cuts to services, including police.

Labor-backed candidates won four seats in City Council races, ensuring that city unions will retain a strong hand at City Hall. In three of the races that are headed for a runoff, a longtime council aide will face off against a well-financed candidate backed by labor.

The candidates for city attorney and city controller are wasting no time to in trying to win an advantage in the May 21 runoff.

A well-funded campaign to shape the city’s school board and to bolster Supt. John Deasy and his policies  saw mixed results. The Los Angeles Community College District will gain experience with new board members, but the direction of the agency is unlikely to change.

While the Los Angeles races drew the most attention Tuesday, 29 other cities in Los Angeles County held elections.

Despite all the money spent on the race, the blizzard of television advertising and dozens of debates, the Times examines why turnout was dismal, and columnist Steve Lopez describes the situation as “late-night TV joke territory.”

-- Seema Mehta

Comments, questions or tips on city elections? Tweet me at @LATSeema

 

Garcetti unloads oil lease tied to Beverly Hills drilling

Los Angeles mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti, who has the Sierra Club’s backing in his race against City Controller Wendy Greuel, has cut his ties to an oil-drilling operation at Beverly Hills High School.

The Times reported last week that the city councilman had signed a lease in 1998 that granted Venoco Inc. drilling rights to a retail property he co-owns through a personal trust.

In a document dated Tuesday, when Garcetti finished first in the mayoral primary, he assigned his interest in the lease to family friend John Stillman, a Newport Beach attorney. No money changed hands, Stillman said.

The 20-year Venoco agreement promised Garcetti and several relatives a share of earnings from any oil or gas that the company extracts by slant drilling under the Wilshire Boulevard property from the high school about a half-mile away.

The high school wells have been the target of some alumni, residents and environmentalists who claim the drilling has produced dangerous emissions of benzene. Venoco insists the wells are safe.

Garcetti's campaign said last week that he had no memory of signing the lease and noted that Venoco had yet to take any oil or gas from the property, the site of a hair salon that pays him and the relatives rent. He also said that he would donate any future drilling royalties from Venoco to the Sierra Club.

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About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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