In April, Mayor Richard Riordan and his supporters spent nearly $300,000 to help elect a slate of 12 hand-picked candidates to a citizens panel that will work to overhaul the city’s 72-year-old charter.
But Riordan’s plans were turned upside down when only three of the eight candidates elected to the 15-member panel were endorsed by the mayor.
Instead, the big winners were the city’s labor unions, which spent less than half of Riordan’s outlays but got seven of their candidates elected to the panel.
Round 2 of the charter fight comes Tuesday, when voters will elect the remaining seven members from a field of 14 candidates who did not receive a majority in April.
Riordan has not thrown in the towel. In fact, the mayor and his supporters have continued to make hefty contributions during the runoff race, even showering money on one candidate who doesn’t want his support.
Still, the runoff race has so far been a low-key sequel to the April primary, partly because many voters didn’t realize a runoff was necessary and because Tuesday’s ballot does not include a high-profile citywide race such as a mayoral campaign.
In fact, Kristin Heffron, head of the city’s election division, predicts a voter turnout Tuesday of between 16% to 20%, about half of the turnout for the primary.
Such a low turnout would be ironic, candidates say, because the efforts to reform the charter were prompted in part by charges that City Hall does not listen to its constituents.
In response to such complaints, Riordan led an initiative campaign last summer to create the elected panel. The mayor rejected an appointed panel created by the City Council, saying it could not act independently of the council.
The April primary also received much more attention because of the high-profile struggle between Riordan and labor unions to get their slates of candidates elected to the panel.
In the primary, Riordan and his associates funded an expensive campaign to support Riordan’s 12 candidates through a so-called independent expenditure committee, which could accept unlimited contributions under the law at the time.
But Proposition 208, which voters approved in November, limits contributions to independent expenditure committees to $250. Those limits took effect Jan. 1, but Riordan’s committee raised most of its money before then.
Under the new limit, Riordan’s committee, Citizens for a Better Los Angeles, has raised less than $40,000. But in the runoff, the committee has spent $125,800 to back seven candidates, partly by tapping funds raised before the limit took effect.
Labor unions have also cut back, spending only $31,000 to support two candidates, Charley Mims and Bennett Kayser.
To make up for the drop in spending from Riordan and the labor groups, the candidates themselves have raised more, in some cases twice what they collected in the primary.
Despite the drubbing his candidates received in the primary, Riordan is conducting an aggressive campaign.
In the race for the 4th District post, representing an area including Hollywood and Griffith Park, the runoff candidates are William Weinberger, an attorney, and Mims, a public works manager.
Riordan’s original candidate in the 4th District was former teachers union leader Helen Bernstein, who was killed when struck by a car just before the primary.
For the runoff, Riordan offered to endorse Weinberger. But Weinberger rejected Riordan’s endorsement, saying he wanted to remain independent.
Despite the rejection, Riordan’s committee has spent $26,300 to campaign for Weinberger--which Mims has made an issue in the campaign.
Weinberger said Riordan’s support is frustrating, but he can’t stop the mayor from spending on his behalf.
In the 14th District, which includes parts of East Los Angeles, David Tokofsky, a Los Angeles school board member, was supported by labor unions during the primary. But for the runoff against Nick Pacheco, a deputy district attorney, Riordan has thrown his support behind Tokofsky, spending $16,500 on his behalf.
Although Pacheco questions Tokofsky’s loyalties, Tokofsky has accepted Riordan’s endorsement, saying it indicates that he is “a consensus candidate.”
Other candidates, meanwhile, are trying to explain to voters that there is an election on Tuesday.
Charter commission candidate Janice Hahn, sister of City Atty. James K. Hahn, said she got nearly 30 congratulatory calls after she made it into a runoff with schoolteacher Jerry Gaines in the race to represent the Harbor area’s 15th council district.
“Most people didn’t realize there was a runoff,” she said. “They thought I won.”
Such confusion is believed to be partly responsible for the low turnout at candidate forums for the runoffs.
“The community forums have not been well attended,” said Gaines. “Some view that it was all over with already.”
The following are a list of all the charter candidates on Tuesday’s ballot:
* District 4: Charley Mims, Bill Weinberger
* District 6: Chester Widom, Jimmie Woods-Gray
* District 9: Woody Fleming, Ricardo Torres II
* District 11: Rob Glushon, Maureen Kindel
* District 13: Lorri Jean, Bennett Kayser
* District 14: Nick Pacheco, David Tokofsky
* District 15: Janice Hahn, Jerry L. Gaines