Gaining a potentially powerful ally, Los Angeles City Council candidate Barbara Yaroslavsky on Monday won the endorsement of former council hopeful and past school board member Roberta Weintraub.
Weintraub, who represented parts of the San Fernando Valley on the Los Angeles Unified School District board for 14 years, joined several new supporters who are expected to help Yaroslavsky's 5th District candidacy in the Valley, where she came in last during the April 11 primary.
"There is no doubt in my mind that Barbara Yaroslavsky is the best candidate and the most qualified to take the post," Weintraub said at a news conference outside City Hall.
The endorsement surprised some political observers because Weintraub accused Yaroslavsky during the primary of showing "tremendous disdain for the public" for failing to appear at about a dozen public debates.
She had also suggested that Yaroslavsky won her biggest endorsement--the support of Mayor Richard Riordan--due to the influence of her husband, county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.
Mike Feuer, Yaroslavsky's opponent in the June 6 runoff, was even less likely to win Weintraub's endorsement since one of his campaign mailers during the primary accused Weintraub of lying to voters about her accomplishments on the school board.
Weintraub acknowledged that she could have refused to endorse either candidate, but she said she felt an obligation to let voters know her choice in the race. She also played down her past criticism of Yaroslavsky and rejected suggestions that her endorsement was meant to punish Feuer.
"This is a positive for Barbara, not a negative for Feuer," she said. "I never said anything terrible about Barbara."
Weintraub added that she feels a kinship with Yaroslavsky because the two women made names for themselves as longtime volunteers who raised families in the process.
But Feuer called Weintraub's endorsement an "ironic twist," considering, he said, that Weintraub suggested in the past that Yaroslavsky was unqualified to fill the council post.
"I don't think Barbara's qualifications have been enhanced in the last three or four weeks," he said.
Still, Feuer said Weintraub's endorsement won't translate into votes for Yaroslavsky because "Roberta is old news."
Paul Clarke, a Valley-based political consultant, said he was surprised by Weintraub's endorsement but suggested that she made the move in order to further her own political ambitions.
"This is a surprise," he said, "but then again you are talking about a political animal."
But Weintraub insisted that she is gaining nothing from the endorsement because she has given up all ambitions for future political office.
The council's 5th District includes parts of Van Nuys, North Hollywood, Studio City, Sherman Oaks and the Westside.
Yaroslavsky drew 26% of the vote in the primary, compared to 40% for Feuer, the former head of a legal services clinic. Weintraub came in third with 21%, but drew 23% in the Valley, where she has stronger name recognition.
In the past three weeks, Yaroslavsky's campaign appears to have gained momentum by winning the endorsements of Jeff Brain, another former council candidate and past president of the Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce; Richard Close, president of the Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce, and Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block.