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Why L.A.'s Westside is a political powerhouse

February 11, 2009 |  3:35 pm

Election_sig If any part of Los Angeles is going to have an outsized influence on the March 3 municipal election, it will probably be the affluent Westside district represented by departing City Councilman Jack Weiss. The Times is taking a closer look at issues in the 5th District as part of a new Web page, Election Central: The race for L.A. City Hall.

Taking in such well-to-do neighborhoods as Beverlywood, Cheviot Hills and Encino, the 5th District has more registered voters than any of the other 14 council districts. In fact, you could combine the neighborhoods represented by council members Ed Reyes and Jan Perry -– areas that include Chinatown, Lincoln Heights and part of downtown Los Angeles –- and still end up 40,000 short of the number of voters in the 5th.

But aren't council districts supposed to be roughly the same size?

Indeed they are -- but based on population, not voters.

Add in that the Westside district offers the only open seat in this year's council elections, and you can expect that turnout this year will be higher in the 5th than in any other part of the city. That turnout is being driven in large part by six well-funded, evenly-matched candidates seeking Weiss' seat.

"You have six people trying to turn out the vote, and you have the current councilman running for city attorney. So I'm sure there is a lot more canvassing activity going on here than in any other district," said Adeena Bleich, one of the contenders seeking to replace Weiss.

How the 5th District will influence the races for mayor, city controller and five ballot measure campaigns is unclear. But the six candidates in the 5th have plenty to say for themselves: Over the next three weeks, Times editors are posing questions to those candidates and the 10 running for mayor. A summary of their answers to a city budget question appears here today. The complete answers to questions about city finances, traffic, development, public safety and schools will be available shortly at Election Central.

-- David Zahniser