Los Angeles city and county governments are full of officials who profess to be candid but who are, in fact, evasive or even deceptive. City Councilwoman
Areas that some candidates scramble to avoid don't faze her. In an interview last week, for instance, she coolly sized up the racial and gender politics of the mayor's race, in which she's one of the leading candidates. Perry's campaign so far has been overshadowed by those of City Councilman
Her base, Perry explained, begins with African Americans. From there, she imagines polling well with Latinos; she speaks Spanish well enough to campaign in that language, and there are no prominent Latino candidates in the race (although Garcetti's paternal grandparents were immigrants from Mexico). Perry expects to attract substantial support from women and hopes her sometimes combative relationship with the city's ruling establishment will win her support in the San Fernando Valley, the locus of city government skeptics.
Finally, though it's not widely known, Perry also is Jewish, having converted to the faith in the 1980s. As voters learn more about her, Perry hopes for some Jewish support as well.
Moreover, the potential turns in the race ahead may favor her. Many eyes are on County Supervisor
Reflecting on her challenge, Perry noted that the politics are complicated. "I don't take any of that for granted," she said of her coalition. "I happen to be African American. I happen to be Jewish. But I have to take my case directly to voters."
The essence of that case, Perry says, is that Los Angeles is still hurting economically, and she has a proven record of encouraging economic development; L.A. Live is the centerpiece of that effort, as is the growth of downtown generally. Moreover, Perry notes that even as she has brought in development, she has been sensitive to environmental issues — she's most proud of two wetlands she helped create in her district, which includes parts of downtown and South Los Angeles. And she has maintained independence in a city often in the sway of interest groups such as labor and its Sacramento allies.
Perry can be fierce in defense of her positions, as she demonstrated this year when she engaged in a sharp battle with Council President
She's also sparred with Mayor
All of this suggests that Perry has the moxie to be mayor. The question will be whether her record of achievement is strong enough to impress voters. It's not that Perry hasn't done anything; she has. But the wetlands she's so proud of are hardly a comprehensive environmental agenda, and the success of L.A. Live, while undeniable, owes far more to the work of
And yet, there's something refreshing and genuine about Perry that could play well with voters. Near the end of our conversation, she relayed a story about a man she met through the Coalition for Responsible Community Development, which Perry helped to found in South Los Angeles. He was in tough times, out of work, struggling to make ends meet. Recently, she ran into him again, working at the Marriott Hotel adjacent to L.A. Live. He recognized her and thanked her for helping him get work. He's married now, looking forward to having a family.
As Perry told the story, her voice cracked. She waved it off, a little embarrassed, and explained: "For me, it's personal."