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Holden’s Mayoral Bid Hinges on Fund Raising

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden, a combative political veteran with more losses than triumphs on his record, said Tuesday that he will run for mayor against Tom Bradley at the urging of black ministers and voters he spoke with last weekend--provided he can raise $400,000 before Feb. 4.

Holden, who once joked that he wins “every fourth time” he appears on the ballot, said he admires and respects Bradley but believes that the city needs a change in leadership. Gang violence, substandard housing, overdevelopment and traffic have left the city “sitting on a powder keg,” Holden said.

At a City Hall press conference, Holden said he has received $75,000 in campaign pledges since letting it be known Friday--after Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky opted not to run--that he might run.

“I’m just testing the water,” Holden said. “I will run if I can get the money.”

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Holden, 59, is the only established political figure to announce his candidacy. Bradley, 71, is expected to file today to run for a fifth term. A multimillion-dollar challenge by Yaroslavsky, 18 months in the making, fizzled last week when he decided that even with plenty of money he could not defeat Bradley.

Bradley, at a brief session with reporters, chose to make light of Holden’s prospective candidacy. When asked what he thought of Holden, Bradley answered: “Who?”

Despite Bradley’s seeming indifference, the last time they clashed at the polls Holden came away the winner. In 1987, Bradley campaigned strongly for a close friend, Homer Broome, but Holden won election to the City Council from the 10th District, the seat once held by Bradley.

Until last week, Holden acknowledged Tuesday, he would have rated his chances slim. Supporters would urge him to run for mayor, he said, and “I would always laugh and joke about that.” But he said Yaroslavsky’s departure from the race left voters who are dissatisfied with Bradley with nowhere else to turn, and by his reasoning actually weakened the mayor.

Need for ‘Healing’

Holden said his support will come from voters who oppose Bradley on the issues.

“The city of Los Angeles needs a lot of healing,” Holden said. “When the clothes are off, we’ve got problems.”

The Rev. B. T. Newman, pastor of a Compton church and president of the California State Baptist Convention, joined Holden at the press conference and said he urged Holden to run.

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“We love Mayor Bradley,” Newman said. “But to go uncontended simply says everything is well and good . . . and that’s not true.”

Candidates must formally declare their intention to City Clerk Elias Martinez by Saturday at noon. They are not then required to finish filing nominating papers until noon on Feb. 4.

Like any political candidate, Holden prefers to win. But in a lengthy career in Democratic politics, most of the time as an aide and protege of Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, Holden has shown that he is not averse to running a campaign against long odds.

Two Victories

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He has waged eight campaigns for an assortment of offices from Congress to state Board of Equalization, and has been victorious twice. He won election to the State Senate from Culver City in 1974, and left after one term to seek a seat in Congress. In 1987, he won the Los Angeles council seat, representing a racially mixed area that hugs the Santa Monica Freeway midway between downtown and the Westside, reaching from Koreatown to Palms.

Elected with help from his son, Chris (who is running himself for the Pasadena City Council), Holden has picked up a reputation as an argumentative bucker of the civility that governs most City Hall debates. One of his first acts was to hold up the re-appointment of a close Bradley aide to the Board of Public Works, and berate her and the department about poor street maintenance, untrimmed trees and uncut city lawns.

Holden was the first to call for changes in the high-rise sprinkler laws after a fire last year in the First Interstate Bank tower downtown, and claimed credit for the November defeat of Proposition L, which would have financed new library construction. Holden’s office produces volumes of press releases, but Tuesday could not provide a detailed resume, only a brief biographical sketch that showed he holds a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s degree in systems engineering from West Coast University, a private evening school in the Mid-City area.

His single state Senate term was, at times, colorful. In 1976, witnesses said state Sen. Alan Robbins grabbed Holden after the two argued while taping a TV show in Los Angeles. The argument was over reassigning Los Angeles schoolteachers to balance school faculties by race, but Robbins also was apparently upset that Holden had spilled coffee on Robbins’ wife. Holden said it was an accident. The same year, Holden complained that an LAPD officer was biased against blacks after he was detained at gunpoint in the parking lot of his Crenshaw Boulevard Senate office after a robbery report.

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Hahn, a longtime supporter of Bradley, had endorsed the mayor’s reelection many months ago and apparently will not help his former aide. “Kenny never changes an endorsement once he makes it,” Hahn aide Dan Wolf said Tuesday.


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