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Vying to Be Most Progressive

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jackie Goldberg was considered the most liberal politician ever elected to the Los Angeles City Council when, eight years ago, she won a seat representing parts of Hollywood, Echo Park and Silver Lake.

With Goldberg now seated in the state Assembly, the two candidates seeking to succeed her are engaged in a battle of rhetoric over which of them is the more progressive.

Seeking a political comeback, former Councilman Mike Woo tells voters that he helped preserve the Los Angeles River, fought for immigrant rights and still knows how to get things done at City Hall.

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“The district is facing great challenges,” said Woo, a longtime Silver Lake resident who represented the district in the 1980s. “I offer a unique combination of having fought for social justice and knowing the community.”

On the other side is Eric Garcetti, who at age 30 talks about how he traveled the globe working with Amnesty International but is now determined to make his mark as a new member of Los Angeles’ liberal establishment. Largely unproven but full of ideas, Garcetti--son of former Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti--says Woo has already had his chance to serve. Now it’s time for new blood.

“People should vote for me because they want to see someone who reflects the district as it is right now,” Garcetti said, “not what it once was.

“No matter how Mike Woo wants to reinvent himself, he is an old-school politician and a City Hall insider.”

One thing is certain: Whoever wins next week’s runoff will inherit a district greatly in need of attention. Though the area includes some of the city’s most recognizable landmarks (the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Mann’s Chinese Theatre), it also includes some of its worst examples of poverty, such as the apartment complex that collapsed in Echo Park last year, killing one resident.

Complicating matters, Council District 13 has been operating without a representative since December, when Goldberg assumed her position in the Assembly.

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Goldberg, who said she decided to endorse Garcetti after much struggle and debate, said she is eager for her council seat to finally be filled.

“Council District 13 can’t lose on Tuesday,” Goldberg said. “Both candidates are men of integrity. On the issues, they are very similar.”

However, she said she ultimately decided to support Garcetti because he has “an extreme passion and fire about getting things done.”

“It wasn’t an easy decision,” Goldberg said. “I like and respect Mike Woo. Basically, the key difference is I saw that Eric has a tremendous amount of energy.”

Plastering the district with yard signs, Garcetti has run an aggressive grass-roots campaign. In the April 10 election, he finished in first place, with 6,341 votes.

Woo came in second, with 6,194. With a new, energized campaign team, the former councilman has attempted to replicate Garcetti’s spirited door-to-door campaign. He also has more money in the bank, having raised almost twice as much as his rival since April.

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“Woo really didn’t run a race in [April],” said political consultant Jorge Flores, who is not associated with either campaign. “His performance was based largely on residual name I.D. Now he is much more visible. I wouldn’t count him out.”

Woo was elected to the council in 1985 and again four years later. With his second council term highlighted by his early call for the ouster of then-Police Chief Daryl F. Gates after the Rodney G. King beating, Woo ran for mayor in 1993, finishing a close second to Richard Riordan.

Upon his return to the private sector, he went to work as the director of a nonprofit agency that provides low-interest loans for affordable housing projects.

Woo, the son of a Chinese immigrant and the city’s first Asian American council member, launched a drive in 1990 to restrict the Los Angeles Police Department’s ability to help the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to identify illegal immigrants. He also helped sponsor a plan to declare Los Angeles a sanctuary for refugees from war-torn Central America.

“I’m not going to let any other candidate claim the title of being the most progressive in this race,” Woo said.

Although Garcetti may lack Woo’s experience, he has put together an impressive list of accomplishments.

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A former Rhodes scholar, Garcetti teaches political science at Occidental College. He has a master’s degree in urban planning and politics from Columbia University. He studied for his doctorate at Oxford University and the London School of Economics.

Garcetti has also traveled around the world working on various human rights causes. He spent time in Ethiopia, where he helped lead an effort against female genital mutilation.

If elected to the council, Garcetti has pledged to overhaul the Police Department and fight for more affordable housing. He is being supported by Mayor Riordan and most of the City Council.

“At the end of the day, this has been a very humbling experience,” Garcetti said. “You get to meet your entire city while campaigning. So many people feel disconnected from City Hall. . . . That’s the first area I really want to focus on: reconnecting people with government.”

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

City Council District 13

THE CANDIDATES

School breakup, LAPD reform and public safety, public transportation, secession.

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Mike Woo

Age: 49

Residence: Silver Lake

Education: Earned a B.A. in politics and urban studies from UC Santa Cruz and a master’s degree in city planning from UC Berkeley

Career highlights: Represented the 13th Council District from 1985 to 1993. He ran for mayor in 1993, coming in a close second to Richard Riordan. Most recently, Woo worked as the director of a nonprofit affordable housing agency.

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Interests: Gardening and gourmet cooking

Family: Divorced, no children

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Eric Garcetti

Age: 30

Residence: Echo Park

Education: Studied urban planning and politics at Columbia University, where he received a B.A. and M.A. He studied for his doctorate at Oxford University and the London School of Economics as a Rhodes scholar; expects to complete it by the end of summer.

Career highlights: He is a professor of public policy, diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College and at USC.

Interests: Photography, jazz piano and musical composition

Family: Single, no children.

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