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Villaraigosa appointee backs "Nuch," disses Weiss

February 11, 2009 |  4:56 pm

Election_sig_2 With the March 3 election less than three weeks away, the race for Los Angeles city attorney is taking a considerably sharper tone.

A day after several city officials expressed their dislike of a campaign mailer sent by Councilman Jack Weiss, one of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s most outspoken appointees threw her support behind Harbor City lawyer Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich, Weiss’ opponent in the city attorney campaign.

Former Planning Commission President Jane Ellison Usher, who had plenty to say on development issues as a city commissioner, sent an invitation this afternoon to a Feb. 18 campaign fundraiser for Trutanich in Hancock Park. In the e-mail, Usher said she supports Trutanich because he has a distaste for “politics as usual” – and then offered a tart assessment of his opponent.

“Nuch is the only serious challenger to Councilman Jack Weiss, whose own run is undermined by his antagonism to neighborhoods and by his profound reliance upon developers and lobbyists,” she wrote.

cheUsher’s e-mail creates a break with Villaraigosa, who considers Weiss one of his closest political allies. Political consultant Ace Smith, who represents both Weiss and Villaraigosa, called Usher’s statement “nonsense,” describing his client as a fair arbiter in land-use disputes.

Smith also went after Trutanich for representing companies accused of polluting the San Pedro Bay and improperly disposing of hazardous waste. “This man is running with a misleading ballot title –- environmental attorney, when all he does is represent polluters,” he added.

The exchange occurred on the same day that Weiss announced endorsements from four African American leaders -- businessman and former basketball star Earvin “Magic" Johnson, U.S. Rep. Diane Watson, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and City Councilman Herb Wesson.

Usher, who left the commission two months ago, has become a hero to some homeowner groups for offering strong words about the city’s handling of billboards and real estate development. She was especially critical of the council’s effort to roll back zoning laws –- rules governing building height, open space and density -- for companies whose residential projects have just one unit of affordable housing.

In her e-mail, Usher had similarly strong words about City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo: “We have been ill served by the current city attorney, who leaves behind a striking legacy of misjudgment and cronyism,” she wrote.

Delgadillo’s office referred questions to Trutanich.

-- David Zahniser

Read more coverage of the election at: The Times' Election Central page.