Katz Turns to TV in Catch-Up Bid

Trailing badly in polls, Los Angeles mayoral candidate Richard Katz today launches a $1-million ad campaign as the primary campaign enters its final three weeks. The TV commercial is the first produced by the San Fernando Valley assemblyman, although a group of his young supporters has aired a spot about him on MTV. The current ad combines an anti-crime message with an attack on the City Hall political Establishment.

THE AD: The 30-second spot opens with a shot of barbed wire, followed by Katz standing in a leather jacket in front of a graffiti-splattered wall--which is fast becoming a favored motif in mayoral advertising. “L.A. used to be a great place to live,” Katz says. “Now everybody talks about leaving. Gangs run wild. And the City Hall crowd runs for cover.” Katz says it is possible to put more police on the street by selling municipally owned Ontario Airport and tapping the city’s $32-million parking fund. “And we can save lives by passing tough new gun laws and enforcing the death penalty.”

THE ANALYSIS: Political experts say it is a high-risk strategy for Katz to have waited so long to air an ad--several weeks after a number of his rivals have been running commercials. “It’s a calculated gamble,” said political consultant Rick Taylor. “If no one else was on TV, it might be a great strategy. But when Mike Woo is going to be there potentially spot for spot with him, and Dick Riordan can be, if he wants to be, spot for spot with him, it might be too little, too late.” Katz lagged behind Councilman Woo, businessman Riordan and Councilmen Joel Wachs and Nate Holden in a recent poll with only 4% support. Peter Taylor, Katz’s campaign manager, contended that voters are only now beginning to focus on the election. As for Katz’s call for tapping parking funds to put more police on the street, that money is certain to be used up before the new mayor takes office to help ease the city’s budget deficit, said Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who chairs the budget committee. “To the best of my knowledge, there are no buyers to Ontario Airport, including the city of Ontario,” he added. As for Katz’s reference to the death penalty, the city has no authority over that matter.