Los Angeles Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, who won her job four years ago by defeating one of the city’s most powerful incumbents, may face at least a dozen challengers from across the 6th District in her bid to win another term.
Fourteen candidates have declared their intention to run against Galanter in the April 9 municipal primary, which could make the 6th District ballot the most crowded among the seven council contests that had filing deadlines this week. Candidates in a special election to fill the seat of Councilman Gilbert Lindsay, who died last month, have until Jan. 24 to file a declaration of intent.
The 6th District ballot may become less congested over the next three weeks as Galanter and her declared opponents collect signatures of at least 500 registered voters in the district. Only those candidates who submit enough valid signatures by Feb. 2 will appear on the ballot.
The field of opponents may have already been narrowed to 12, thanks to the city’s new ethics law, which was passed by voters last year. Westchester activist Marilyn Cole and Venice resident Michael del Rio were disqualified by the city clerk for missing a newly imposed filing deadline for statements of economic interest.
Cole said she never intended to the meet the Monday deadline and has dropped out of the race. But Del Rio said he plans to challenge the ruling in court. The 25-year-old anti-drug consultant said he sought to file his economic interest statement but was turned away from the city clerk’s 24th-floor office less than two minutes after the 5 p.m. deadline.
“I was in the building before 5 o’clock, but it took time to get an elevator since that was the time everybody was leaving,” Del Rio said. “I was with my 80-year-old grandmother, . . . and the elevator stopped at each one of the floors.”
Candidates are required by state law to divulge their real estate holdings, personal investments and income over the last year in the statement of economic interest. Before passage of the ethics law, however, candidates did not face disqualification if they submitted the form after the deadline for filing the declaration of candidacy.
In other Westside council races, three candidates declared their intention to run against Council President John Ferraro in the 4th District, and three candidates filed to challenge Councilman Nate Holden in the 10th District. But one of Ferraro’s challengers--Barney Feldman--has also been disqualified for failing to file his economic interest statement on time, although he plans a court challenge.
“I see it as the power politics of City Hall taking advantage of what they think are the novices who haven’t been involved with the political dancing they do at election time,” said Feldman, a Los Feliz businessman who ran for mayor in 1977. “To me, that is a poor excuse to disqualify someone.”
Galanter faces a broad spectrum of potential rivals, ranging from the leader of a coalition of homeowner groups to a former aide to Mayor Tom Bradley. But the councilwoman said she sees her chief opponent as county Supervisor Deane Dana, who is supporting the candidacy of his senior deputy, Mary Lee Gray.
“I think the fact that Supervisor Dana is so interested in this race and is trying to take over the district certainly represents a threat,” said Galanter, who has clashed with Dana over county plans for development in and near Marina del Rey.
Gray announced last September that she would challenge Galanter, attacking the first-term councilwoman for failing to make progress on problems related to development, crime and the environment. In a press release issued last week when she filed her declaration to run, Gray characterized Galanter as an invisible councilwoman who has offered “Band-Aid solutions” to the district’s problems.
Galanter, looking very much the incumbent, responded this week by holding a press conference of her own at the beach in Playa del Rey, not far from where Gray launched her campaign in September. Flanked by police officers and community supporters, Galanter unveiled a crime prevention program for the community.
The large number of potential challengers to Galanter was interpreted by some as an indication of widespread dissatisfaction in the district and, ultimately, of her vulnerability. Arnold Steinberg, a political consultant working on Gray’s campaign, said a large field of candidates--each with a base of support--may hurt Galanter by stealing votes from the incumbent and forcing a runoff election by keeping her below the 50%-plus-one-vote mark in the primary.
Galanter beat incumbent Pat Russell in 1987 after emerging from a pack of five opponents in the primary and forcing the former council president into a runoff.
“If you have an incumbent who is very strong, often there isn’t this much opposition,” Steinberg said. “Mary (Gray) seems to have the support of a number of people who have previously supported the councilwoman when she first ran.”
Galanter dismissed such speculation, saying most of her potential challengers were never among her supporters, and predicted that she will win the election without a runoff. Galanter attributed the large number of candidates to the district’s tradition of activism.
“The 6th District has more activists per square inch than any other district in the city,” Galanter said. “I think it is the most diverse, and certainly the most active. People care about the community. Everybody has got something to say, and it appears people want to say it.”
In addition to Gray and Del Rio, other potential challengers to Galanter are: Matthew L. Olds, an attorney; Pearl E. White, a Venice activist; Salvatore Grammatico, a real estate agent and activist who ran in 1987; Tavis Eugene Smiley, a former aide to Bradley; Rex Keith Frankel, an activist and journalist; J. Wilson Bowman, an education consultant; Mervin Evans, a business development consultant; Marjorie Ann Colon, an entrepreneur; Eric-Douglas Johnson, a business owner; Donald R. Conkrite, a fire inspector, and Charles Albert Mattison, a minister and dentist.
In the 4th District, in addition to Feldman, potential challengers to Ferraro are community activists Fabian Asensio and Gregory E. Roberts.
In the 10th District, Holden’s potential challengers are: Esther M. Lofton, an educator and administrator; Terry Barnett O’Neal, president of the San Vicente Watch, and Bobbie Hodges-Betts, a community activist.