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Iowa's voters attract even an L.A. city councilman

January 1, 2008 |  6:50 pm

Instead of spending yet another holiday at home watching football and relaxing, City Council President Eric Garcetti opted to take a break from Los Angeles' annoying sunshine and winter warmth. He craved the nose-biting breezes and suddenly sideways-driving roads of Iowa for some nice nonstop campaigning for Barack Obama among strangers who never heard of him or District 13.

Hillary Clinton may have drawn L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa away from Aspen's slopes to Iowa for a long weekend of grocery store campaigning for her in the tight Democratic caucus race. But Garcetti is stumping the long length and broad breadth of the Hawkeye State for the freshman senator from Illinois.

Garcetti has been there since Dec. 29 and won't leave until Jan. 4, the day after the caucuses, which are believed to be close despite a new Des Moines Register poll showing Obama widening his lead over Clinton and John Edwards. Garcetti is visiting churches and communities with Latinos and African Americans in search of undecided voters not traditionally involved with the complexities of caucusing on a cold winter night when the Orange Bowl and other TV delicacies can tempt your time.

So what if he's a nobody to the folks of Long Grove, New Liberty and Pleasant Prairie. Garcetti says in an e-mail he finds the experience "exciting and empowering" to "carry Sen. Obama's message of change and hope to the residents of Iowa." And who knows what will come of this newfound working friendship?

But what about their off-time? Centro, a high ceilinged, upscale Italian restaurant in downtown Des Moines, becomes a buzzing hive of journalists, politicos and star gazers during caucus week. Sunday night, The Times Robin Abcarian spotted a California power table assembling toward the back: the next would-be governor (Villaraigosa) dined with the would-be attorney general (San Francisco DA Kamala Harris). Keeping them company was Garcetti, and his dad, former LA District Attorney Gil.

And although the Garcettis and Harris are in Iowa to stump for Obama, while Villaraigosa is on the trail for Clinton, they all seemed to get along fine.

--Andrew Malcolm

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