Mayor, City Hall Establishment to Also Face Test in Council Elections
Los Angeles City Council President Pat Russell called it a soap opera, her words for the life-and-death drama that nearly killed her opponent, traumatized Russell’s campaign and, for a while, preempted the political focus on both of the City Council runoff races to be decided Tuesday.
Before it happened, before candidate Ruth Galanter was stabbed in the neck by a prowler in her home May 6, the elections were important in their own right. The races in both the 6th District and in the 10th were regarded as tests of Mayor Tom Bradley’s local influence in the wake of his drubbing in the governor’s race last year. Both of the races are expected to be close.
One of Bradley’s candidates, Homer Broome Jr., is taking on former state Sen. Nate Holden, who is backed by a rival political organization of Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn in the largely black 10th Council District. There, the battle is between two personalities who differ only slightly on the issues of the district--fighting crime, revitalizing neighborhoods and raising economic standards.
In the other race, however, the candidates do not see eye to eye on the dominant issue before them. Russell, a 17-year incumbent and longtime Bradley ally, is going against a new force in town--an angry strain of white middle-class populism led by Galanter that is attempting to slow the pace of development in the 6th District.
It was just a few weeks after the campaigning had started when the story of the election became the Ruth Galanter story, the saga of a political ingenue who was brutally injured in the midst of a grass-roots campaign to unseat a City Hall boss.
Galanter’s brush with death silenced both campaigns for a few days, but the rough rhetoric that had characterized the race from the start soon resumed. Over the weekend, Russsell sent a mailer to Republican voters showing one of Galanter’s advisers to be a former member of the Socialist Worker’s Party, while Galanter mailed cards to black neighborhoods accusing Russell of trying to buy black votes with offers of fried chicken.
Before the campaign, Galanter, a 46-year-old urban planner who had never run for elective office, was not widely known outside the community of environmental activists she had been part of since coming to California from New York, her birthplace, in the early 1970s. Appointed by then-Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., Galanter served on the South Coast Regional Coastal Commission from 1977 to 1981 and since then has run a consulting firm that specializes in environmental matters.
In opposing the 63-year-old Russell, Galanter was taking on a pragmatic liberal who has forged strong ties with business and labor because she, like Bradley, believes that jobs, housing and other opportunities are not possible without continued growth.
The question raised by the Galanter campaign is whether City Hall’s traditional commitment to growth can withstand a widening middle-class protest over congestion and pollution.
But that issue along with other political considerations lost their sense of urgency in the days following the assault on Galanter when the questions of her survival and recovery were uppermost on people’s minds.
While Galanter struggled to survive, Russell briefly agonized over how to run a campaign against a critically wounded adversary that would be effective without seeming exploitative.
Russell also had to contend with the accusation made by Galanter’s neighbors--at the instigation of Galanter’s campaign staff--that the councilwoman could have prevented the assault.
The neighbors said they sent a letter to Russell asking her to do something about the criminal activity they blamed on residents of a boardinghouse where, it turned out, Galanter’s accused assailant was living.
Russell Says She Didn’t Get Letter
Russell insisted that she never received the letter, and she pointed out that it had been addressed to the wrong City Hall office. Spokesmen for Russell now say they are confident that the publicity surrounding the letter did no permanent damage to her campaign, but it did contribute to a rising level of frustration and bitterness.
“I was living through a soap opera with the unprecedented and unbelievably brutal attack,” Russell said. “I asked my advisers what I ought to do, but they had never heard of anything like what we had to face in this election.”
Russell’s main campaign worry was over the prospect of an enormous sympathy vote for her opponent.
But with help from her advisers, a group of high-priced consultants hired after her disappointing primary performance, Russell was able to find opportunity in adversity. Gradually, it became apparent to the Russell camp that Galanter’s plight might work against her.
In her one press conference since the assault, Galanter, still in the hospital, said her doctors were confident that she would be fine, but her voice was frail, her speech slurred and one side of her face seemed immobile.
While Russell refused to raise the matter of her opponent’s health, her campaign staff pressed the issue with members of the news media. Galanter looks like she had a stroke, they insisted. Why won’t she make public her medical records, they wanted to know?
Health questions lingered through the end of last week. Galanter was listed in good condition, but her campaign staff’s prediction that she would be out of the hospital by this weekend had not come true.
Moreover, Galanter’s doctors said she would be better off not leaving the hospital to attend a preliminary hearing scheduled Monday for the man accused of assaulting her. Galanter had said a week ago that she planned to attend the hearing.
Galanter sought to allay doubts about her health with a phone call Friday night to The Times. She said she was experiencing continuing pain in her throat and digestive problems, but insisted she had not suffered any significant setbacks. Although she could not say when she would be leaving the hospital, she said she would be ready to hold office July 1 if she is elected Tuesday.
Both the prosector and the defense attorney in the case said they were willing to ask for a postponement of the hearing until Galanter was able to attend.
The Russell camp raised another issue in letters and phone calls to voters. Even if Galanter is well enough to hold public office, they asked, is she the right person to represent mainstream constituents, given her friendship with once-radical Tom Hayden, who endorsed her late in the campaign, and her reliance on a group of left-leaning campaign aides?
With Galanter in the hospital barely able to speak, her opponents were also able to avoid her most potent weapon--the charge that Russell was a pawn of major real estate interests in her district. That contention had cost her dearly in the April 14 primary when she fell short of the majority she needed to avoid a runoff against Galanter, the top runner-up in a field of five challengers.
Galanter, meanwhile, has picked up the endorsements of two city councilmen, Marvin Braude and Ernani Bernardi, who took the unusual step of coming out against one of their own. In addition, a timely endorsement by the city’s Police Protective League has helped Galanter counter the claim that she is a leftist.
Nevertheless, by the end of last week, Russell’s staff was guardedly optimistic, saying privately they had put the development issue in the shade, neutralized the sympathy vote for Galanter and drawn even in the race.
“It’s going a lot better than it was two weeks ago,” Russell said at a fund-raising dinner attended by about 250 of the developers, lobbyists and corporate lawyers who traditionally support City Hall incumbents.
At the same dinner, Bradley rose to urge the audience to help deliver “a last-minute punch” on behalf of Russell, as he underscored the closeness of the race.
“I expect everyone of you to be out there working the phones and walking the precincts of the 6th District. . . . And get out there and vote. I don’t care whether you live in the 2nd District or the 15th,” Bradley joked.
Both sides are saying the outcome of the race depends on the ability of each camp to turn out its voters. Russell will play to her strength in the black neighborhoods of Crenshaw where her ties to Bradley helped her do well in the April primary. Galanter, with help from the League of Conservation Voters and other environmental groups, will focus on the Westchester area where reaction to development has been the most intense.
And with the soap opera nearing an end, both sides are predicting a suitably ignoble denouement as they accuse each other of hatching plots to destroy campaign signs, intimidate some voters and attempt to induce others with free offers of doughnuts and fried chicken.
“We’re not going to be doing any of that stuff. We wouldn’t touch it with a 100-foot pole, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. In fact, you can be almost sure it will happen,” said Rich Lichtenstein, Russell’s campaign manager.
In the battle of personalities in the 10th District, campaign activity was also heating up as Election Day approached--with Bradley playing a leading role in trying to swing a large number of undecided voters to Homer Broome and away from front-runner Nate Holden. The mayor and his allies were campaigning heavily throughout the ethnically rich district--black neighborhoods in the Crenshaw and Mid-City communities, Asian families in Koreatown and Anglo voters in Palms.
In Broome, the mayor has a candidate who not only is a political supporter but a close friend with much in common. Like Bradley, Broome rose through the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department when black captains and commanders were an anomaly. When he returned to Los Angeles after serving in Washington as a top administrator in the federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, Bradley named Broome to the Board of Public Works on which he served until early this year.
Now, the 55-year-old Broome is running for a council seat that Bradley once held--in a district that the mayor still considers home.
The connection has been fully exploited. The billboards in the 10th District, the placards at Broome headquarters and the brochures he has sent to local voters prominently picture both men. Bradley has worked the Sunday morning church crowds with Broome at his side. And present and former mayoral aides have been busily mapping strategy, working the phone banks and walking precincts for Broome.
The Bradley-Broome alliance is also marked by common personal traits--from the low-key temperament and stolid campaign styles of both men to their shared distaste for political flash. Critics unflatteringly liken Broome’s cautious nature to that of the mayor; supporters take the comparison as a compliment.
‘Clone of Tom Bradley’
“Homer Broome has been called a clone of Tom Bradley,” said William Robertson of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor at a recent fund-raising dinner. “Well, that may be the highest compliment he can receive.”
Holden has his own highly placed supporters--county Supervisor Kenneth Hahn and his son, City Atty. James K. Hahn.
But the 57-year-old Holden, who served as a state senator from 1974 to 1978, is banking more heavily on his better-known name to help him repeat his April primary showing, when he finished ahead of Broome and 12 other candidates on the ballot.
Since then, Holden has run as a front-runner protecting his lead.
When Broome, for example, stung him with accusations about his record as a Southern California Rapid Transit District director during a televised debate, Holden simply pulled out of other face-to-face scheduled appearances except for a few in the closing days of the campaign.
In winning the endorsements of nearly every other primary candidate, Holden wasted little time depicting Broome as a candidate of the City Hall Establishment and himself as the grass-roots favorite, unfettered by political debts.
To offset Broome’s police credentials and the backing of organized labor, Holden got the endorsements of the police, firefighters and paramedics unions. Following a political commandment of Supervisor Hahn that stresses the care and nurturing of constituents, Holden has also vowed to spruce up the unkempt vacant lots in the district, fill the potholes, trim the trees and sweep the dirty streets, if elected.
In a district where wrought-iron screen doors, security bars and burglary alarms are commonplace, fighting crime is considered a top priority by both candidates. Both have also decried the proliferation of auto body shops and mini-malls in the district, calling for “balanced development” in their communities. Both are also against a police tax proposal on Tuesday’s ballot for South-Central Los Angeles residents.
There are, in fact, few substantive differences between the candidates. And the distinctions are more readily apparent in their differing personalities and campaign styles. “What you have in Nate Holden is an experienced campaigner who has pounded the flesh, knocked on the door and carried out an old-fashioned political campaign,” said John Mack, president of the Los Angeles Urban League and a resident of the district.
But it is clear that both men have to overcome not only each other but voter apathy as well. When Broome spoke last week to a community forum, sponsored by a local newspaper, only half a dozen people showed up to listen to him. The week before, about 40 people listened to both candidates speak at a half-filled church hall.
“The candidates haven’t really excited the people, and there is some voter apathy,” Mack said. “But that may be due in part (to) the absence of substantive issues that they differ on. . . . We’ll just have to see what happens Tuesday.”
6TH COUNCIL DISTRICT
Results from the April 14 primary election show that Councilwoman Pat Russell must reverse the strong vote for challenger Ruth Galanter in Westchester and Venice to retain her seat. Westchester, Russell’s home, is her best bet.
Pat Russell Age 63.
Lives in Westchester.
Incumbent 6th District councilwoman.
17 years in office.
City Council president since 1983.
Led all rivals in April 14 primary with 42% of the vote but failed to get the 50% plus needed to win.
Chairs council planning committee.
Sponsored legislation to require developers to pay for transportation improvements to offset traffic congestion.
Ruth Galanter Age 46.
Lives in Venice.
6th District challenger.
Has never before run for elective office.
Yale-trained urban planner.
Worked as a private planning consultant for cities, nonprofit groups and developers
Appointed by former Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. in 1977 to Southern California Regional Coastal Commission. Served four years.
Campaigned for laws guaranteeing public access to state beaches, ensuring low-income housing opportunities along the coast and limiting commercial development.
10TH COUNCIL DISTRICT
Nate Holden ran ahead of Homer Broome throughout the 10th District, winning in both poor and more affluent areas. To win, Broome must reverse a districtwide Holden tide.
Homer Broome Jr. Age 55.
Lives in Mid-City area.
10th District candidate.
Has never before run for elective office.
Served six years on the Public Works Board before resigning as vice-president.
Appointed administrator of the federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration in 1980 by President Carter.
Served 25 years with Los Angeles Police Department, holding rank of commander, and chief of staff to the Police Commission.
Nate Holden Age 57.
Lives in Mid-City area.
10th District candidate.
Served four years as a state senator before leaving job in 1978 to run for Congress.
Legislative accomplishments include sponsoring state bill banning lending institutions from discriminating against applicants because of geographic area and authoring bill celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
Finished third in 1986 campaign for state Board of Equalization.
Director of the Southern California Rapid Transit District.
On leave as assistant chief deputy to Supervisor Kenneth Hahn.
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