Both candidates were claiming a slight advantage as the heated runoff campaign between Los Angeles City Councilwoman Peggy Stevenson and challenger Michael Woo entered its final days.
Stevenson and Woo were rounding up absentee votes and walking precincts late last week. The two candidates also released a flurry of mailers targeting voters in various sections of the 13th Council District, which includes Hollywood, Silver Lake, Los Feliz and Echo Park.
As Tuesday’s election approached, spokesmen for both camps were predicting a close finish.
“Our last poll . . . showed it was tight but that Peggy was slightly ahead,” said Allan Hoffenblum, Stevenson’s campaign manager. “The encouraging thing was that the people who are most likely to vote were behind her.”
Harvey Englander, Woo’s campaign manager, said his polling showed just the opposite. Englander claimed that Woo was leading Stevenson 46% to 34%, with 20% undecided, in a survey of voters considered most likely to go to the polls.
“This is better than we had expected,” Englander said. “We are very pleased. But we’re not lightening up.”
Tuesday’s election marks Stevenson’s and Woo’s second confrontation for the 13th District seat. In 1981, Stevenson handily defeated Woo in a bitter campaign. Woo forced her into another runoff earlier this year by winning 35% of the primary vote compared to Stevenson’s 42%.
During the last few weeks, Stevenson and Woo have traded accusations over development, crime, and finances. The 61-year-old Stevenson, who is running for her fourth council term, accused Woo of accepting a questionable campaign contribution from W. Patrick Moriarty, an Orange County fireworks manufacturer who pleaded guilty to making illegal contributions to California politicians.
Woo, who received $5,400 from a firm called Condo Vest, said he was not aware that Moriarty was tied to the company. He later donated the money to charity.
Stevenson also charged that Woo was being controlled by Assemblyman Tom Hayden’s Campaign for Economic Democracy and a host of liberal Democrats affiliated with the Berman-Waxman machine, headed by U.S. Reps. Howard Berman and Henry Waxman from West Los Angeles.
Referring to her own record, Stevenson has stressed her commitment to Hollywood redevelopment and senior citizens. Recently, she has also sponsored a number of proposals to protect historic buildings and ban commercial construction in the neighborhoods north of Hollywood.
Woo has accused Stevenson of “flip-flopping” in her response to disputes between residents and developers, and has told voters that Stevenson can be counted on to support them only during elections. Woo has also blamed Stevenson for the criminal and social problems in Hollywood.
The 33-year-old Woo, a former aide to state Sen. David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) who holds a graduate degree in city planning, has characterized himself as an opponent of high-rise apartment development, an environmentalist and a strong proponent of Hollywood revitalization. He is being supported by two of Stevenson’s council associates--Zev Yaroslavsky and Marvin Braude.
Both candidates claim to have the backing of the district’s sizable gay population and have supported a plan for a local domestic partnership law that would benefit gays. Both have also endorsed a city Charter amendment that would raise taxes to enlarge the police force and both have supported rent control.
Hoffenblum said that Stevenson’s final campaign mailers would contrast the differences between the two candidates and tout Stevenson’s accomplishments. “Woo has painted a distorted picture” Hoffenblum said. “We’re trying the best we can to get her record out.”
Woo’s mailers will highlight changes the challenger hopes to make in various parts of the district. Woo will also repeat his charges that Stevenson is straddling the fence on development. Asked about his task in the final days of the campaign, Woo said he was reminded of a remark made by Fred Astaire when he first met dancing partner Ginger Rogers.
“Astaire told her to relax, all you have to do is do everything perfectly, " Woo recalled. “This is kind of like that.”