ELECTION / CITY COUNCIL : Feuer Takes the 5th (District) After Landslide Victory


Mike Feuer's election night party had everything going for it except suspense.

But the hundreds of supporters who squeezed into every nook and cranny of Feuer's Beverlywood home didn't seem to miss it.

Instead, they reveled all night in Feuer's commanding lead over Barbara Yaroslavsky. Much of the energized crowd hung around to watch Feuer claim victory in live interviews on the 11 p.m. news.

In the end, despite some predictions to the contrary, it was a rout, with Feuer defeating Yaroslavsky 68% to 32% in the race to represent Los Angeles' 5th City Council District.

Of the two council runoffs Tuesday, the 5th District contest was the one to bring a new face to City Hall. In the other runoff, incumbent Nate Holden defeated challenger Stan Sanders 54% to 46% in the 10th District.

The 5th District seat had been held by Barbara Yaroslavsky's husband, Zev, for nearly 20 years before he was elected to the County Board of Supervisors in 1994.

A slight majority of the district, which straddles the Santa Monica Mountains, is in the Westside. It encompasses Westwood, Bel-Air, Cheviot Hills and the Fairfax district. The San Fernando Valley portion of the district is composed of Sherman Oaks and parts of Van Nuys, Studio City and North Hollywood.

Though the race had grown nasty, with Yaroslavsky attack mailers arriving almost daily in voters' mailboxes, Feuer declined an election-night opportunity to strike back.

"It's time for us to move on and work to make our district better," he said.

The 37-year-old public-interest attorney and father of two young children said his win is "a testament to hard work, great volunteers, great friends and family, and an electorate that cares about merit."

Before launching his first bid for office, Feuer ran a legal services clinic, Bet Tzedek, building a base of support among attorneys who volunteer at the well-known agency and among activists in the Jewish community.

Another base of Feuer support came from environmental activists. His wife, Gail Ruderman Feuer, is an attorney specializing in environmental law.

The campaign was also a family affair, as Feuer's parents, wife and son Aaron, 4, joined the candidate as he knocked on thousands of doors in the district, seeking support.

Tuesday's runoff was made necessary when neither Feuer nor Yaroslavsky managed to win more than 50% of the vote in the April primary, which also included retired school board member Roberta Weintraub and Sherman Oaks businessman Jeff Brain.

A fifth potential candidate, Los Angeles prosecutor Lea Purwin D'Agostino, failed to qualify for the primary ballot because her consultant failed to gather the required number of voter signatures.

After losing the primary, both Weintraub and Brain threw their support to Yaroslavsky, who also had Mayor Richard Riordan's strong backing.

With endorsements from the likes of Riordan and Supervisor Gloria Molina and high name recognition, Barbara Yaroslavsky was widely considered to be the leading contender.

But the 5th District's independent-minded voters apparently balked at the idea of a Yaroslavsky dynasty, political experts say. They add that voters also were attracted to the image Feuer projected as a new voice for the district who was not tied to failed policies of the past.

"It was the desire for new leadership and the rejection of dynasty-building [that won him the race]," said Feuer volunteer Laura Lake, a Westwood activist who twice tried to unseat Zev Yaroslavsky when he was on the council.

In her concession speech, Yaroslavsky said she was disappointed but certain that Feuer would make a good councilman.

Yaroslavsky's consultant, Rick Taylor, said Wednesday that Feuer's "phenomenal momentum" in the primary could not be overcome despite a torrent of mail portraying him as just another politician with "blind ambition."

Behind by 13% after the primary, Yaroslavsky hired Taylor, who went on the offensive, accusing Feuer of having a spy in the Yaroslavsky campaign who stole poll results. Among other attacks, Yaroslavsky's mail portrayed Feuer as a sexist and a ultra-liberal who opposed the death penalty.

But Feuer won the support of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents rank-and-file LAPD officers, as well as endorsements from every newspaper except the Daily News.

Efforts to induce more conservative Valley voters to go for Yaroslavsky fell short, as Republican consultant Alan Hoffenblum predicted in an interview several weeks ago. Indeed, only 29,578 ballots were cast Tuesday--nearly 4,000 fewer than in the primary.

"I don't think the Valley identifies with either one of them," Hoffenblum said. "The liberals are going to pick it."

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