Wachs Decides to Bow Out of Race for City Attorney

Times Staff Writer

After toying with the idea for months, Los Angeles City Councilman Joel Wachs said Tuesday that he is not interested in being city attorney and would rather wait for the "appropriate opportunity" to run for mayor.

The 45-year-old Wachs' decision not to run for the open city attorney's post this spring leaves two prominent lawyers who say they will run: Lisa Specht, a partner in the politically active firm of Manatt, Phelps, Rothenberg and Tunney and a television commentator; and Murray Kane, who represents the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency and other such agencies.

City Controller James Hahn also has indicated a strong interest in seeking the job.

Candidates for the post, vacated last Dec. 3 when Ira Reiner took office as district attorney, begin today to take out nominating papers for the April primary.

Wachs, in the middle of his third term, said in an interview that he long ago had come to the "gut conclusion" that he did not want to run for city attorney this year. He said he waited until now to announce his decision so he could weigh all of the pros and cons of such a step.

The councilman, who represents the 2nd District, including parts of the San Fernando Valley, the Santa Monica Mountains and Highland Park, described a possible bid for city attorney as "enticing" and a "tempting diversion."

He said he would have been an early front-runner with $800,000 in the bank for what is expected to be an expensive campaign. Because Wachs' term does not expire until 1987, he also would have been able to run for the post without losing his council seat.

Wachs said he vetoed the idea of running after his mother and close friends advised him not to seek a job that he really does not want.

A tax lawyer by profession, Wachs said he had commissioned public opinion polling that concluded that most people perceive the job of city attorney as that of a prosecutor.

"I think (the job) should be left to someone who wants to be a prosecutor," Wachs said.

"While my head tells me I could win--and my head tells me I'd be really good at it--my heart tells me this isn't the office I really want--that I'd rather stay on the City Council and . . . some day run for mayor based on an outstanding record of achievement."

Wachs has made no attempt to hide his ambition to become Los Angeles mayor, but he said he has no plans to run against incumbent Tom Bradley this year or at any other time. Wachs ran for mayor in 1973, the year that Bradley won election the first time, and placed a distant fifth in a field of 13 candidates.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World