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L.A. Votes: Candidates hone in on jobs, Garcetti attacks on TV

PoliticsElectionsEric GarcettiWendy GreuelAdvertisingTelevision Industry

After promising voters that their prime focus as mayor would be job creation, Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti hammered on the issue during a debate Monday. Greuel, meeting with voters at a Century City mall, highlighted her economic-revitalization plan as she handed out copies of her glossy 36-page “Leading L.A. Forward” mailer. Garcetti touted plans to expand the aerospace industry while meeting with business leaders in North Hollywood.

All this occurred one day after a testy debate, as Garcetti unleashed his first attack ad of the campaign focusing on the city’s Department of Water and Power. With two weeks to go before voters head to the polls, Garcetti launched a major ad buy castigating Greuel as “the DWP’s mayor” and asking viewers: “How much will it cost you?"

The move follows a theme Garcetti has pounded throughout the campaign, that Greuel would be unable to stand up to public-employee unions given the $3.6 million in independent campaign spending that has boosted her bid, with nearly $1.5 million of it coming from the union that represents many city utility workers. He also has questioned why Greuel, as city controller, has not conducted a more thorough audit of the DWP.

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Greuel has countered by noting that Garcetti approved pay raises for DWP employees, who already earned more than other city workers. She also notes that under the city's charter, departments such as the DWP are audited every five years and the utility is not due for a comprehensive audit until 2014.

Garcetti’s negative turn in TV advertising adds an intriguing tactical twist to the campaign. Political conventional wisdom holds that a candidate goes negative when he or she feels pressure in the polls. But the Garcetti ad may place Greuel in a quandary. It's not clear if she has the money in her own campaign war chest to respond forcefully on the air. And if an independent committee tied to the DWP workers' union funds a new round of ads responding to the charges, it could undercut Greuel's effort to convince voters that she is independent and can stand up to the union.

Greuel, whose cash-flow pressure has forced her to cut back her television advertising, lent her campaign $100,000. A clearer picture of the candidates’ finances will emerge on Thursday when their campaigns file financial disclosure reports.

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

Meanwhile, competing Los Angeles measures proposing to regulate sales of medical marijuana on the May 21 ballot were jolted by a ruling Monday by the California Supreme Court that cities have the authority to ban all medical marijuana dispensaries within their borders.

The move upholds bans in about 200 cities but does little to solve Los Angeles' years-long struggle to regulate storefront pot shops. On May 21, voters will weigh three proposals that would allow different numbers of dispensaries to remain open in the city. An attorney for one of the measures warned that if none are approved, the City Council might revive its effort to ban dispensaries.

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

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