Shaking off the sharp rhetoric of the campaign, Mayor-elect James K. Hahn vowed Wednesday to focus immediately on beefing up the Los Angeles Police Department and increasing the number of after-school programs at the city's elementary schools.
"It's a one-two combination punch I think is the right way to look at public safety," he said in an interview. "I've always said throughout the campaign that public safety is job one in government. . . . It's what I believe in and it's what I'm most knowledgeable in."
His transition plan remains in its infancy, but political experts and Hahn's advisors said the new mayor is likely to surround himself with many City Hall veterans who understand how the gears of government operate. Despite much of organized labor's support for Hahn's opponent, the mayor-elect also received support during the campaign from some key labor operatives, potentially earning them an important place in the new administration's plans, too.
In terms of building a governing coalition, some analysts predict that when Hahn takes office July 1, he will enjoy a strong advantage because of the number of allies he will have on the City Council, including the newly elected Janice Hahn, his sister. At the same time, they note that Hahn's strongest political bases--African Americans on one hand, and moderate to conservative voters concentrated in the San Fernando Valley on the other--could be hard to reconcile as he attempts to fashion an agenda.
Before turning to the task of forming an administration and appointing dozens of commissioners to help oversee the sprawling city government, Hahn faces the lingering residues of an occasionally hard-fought campaign. On Wednesday, even as he tried to look toward his new job, the city attorney was dogged by questions about how his controversial television ad against opponent Antonio Villaraigosa may have poisoned some public sentiments and left divisions between the two camps' supporters.
Hahn dismissed that notion, saying political campaigns are supposed to be "tough and vigorous." He expressed hope that Villaraigosa and his supporters will work with him as he governs the city.
"I think that people know that the campaign is over," said Hahn, who was relaxed and upbeat during a Wednesday morning news conference in a downtown hotel ballroom. "We need to all build bridges toward each other. I'm confident that people will see that Jim Hahn is somebody who will bring the city together."
Repairing Relations Will Be Key Task
Some political analysts agree that the bitter tenor of the campaign's final weeks will eventually dissipate, largely because of Hahn's affable nature and low-key demeanor.
"It's hard not to like Jim Hahn," said political consultant Rick Taylor. "People's memories are short."
But, Taylor added, some Villaraigosa supporters like County Supervisor Gloria Molina--who angrily denounced the ad that featured the image of a smoking crack pipe--"will not forgive and forget so quickly."
And Hahn may have significant work to do in repairing relations with Latinos, who overwhelmingly supported the former legislator.
"We were very disappointed at the commercials Jim showed," said Al Juarez, a 59-year-old management analyst, during Villaraigosa's election night party. "I don't know how he's going to live that down. If he wins, he's going to have some work restoring the confidence of middle-class Chicanos in him."
Hahn will have to assuage those feelings as he assembles his new administration, one that is likely to include many familiar faces who were once strong supporters of Mayor Richard Riordan.
Attorney Bill Wardlaw, a top Hahn advisor and strategist who broke with Riordan to support the city attorney, appears bound to figure prominently behind the scenes in the Hahn administration.
"Bill's going to have another four- or eight-year reign," one political consultant half-joked.
Other former Riordan advisors who some observers say are likely to receive appointments or to function as top advisors: former Police Commissioner Dan Garcia, whom Riordan removed from the Airport Commission; former Harbor Commission President Leland Wong; attorney Lisa Specht, who was appointed by Riordan to two commissions; and former Harbor Commissioner Ted Stein, who challenged Hahn for city attorney in 1997 but then worked hard to raise money for him in the now-completed campaign.
Longtime city attorney aides Matt Middlebrook and Tim Micosker will probably follow their boss to the mayor's office.
"I think it's very important that he have confident staff he can trust who are loyal to him," said County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who backed Villaraigosa. "One of the toughest jobs in America is being a big-city mayor. You're held responsible for everything, even if you're not responsible."
As mayor, Hahn said, he'll focus on concrete tasks such as filling potholes as well as the larger challenges that face Los Angeles.
Hahn said he plans to focus first on revamping the Police Department's discipline system, recruiting more police officers and working with the Los Angeles Unified School District to increase the number of after-school programs. In an interview, he added that he wants to tackle the city's transportation system and traffic gridlock and boost the number of affordable housing units.
As he develops an agenda and attempts to steer it through the City Council, Hahn will be able to count on the support of several key allies, including council members Alex Padilla, Nate Holden, Hal Bernson, Nick Pacheco, Ruth Galanter--and his sister Janice.
With a subtle reference to his predecessor, Hahn said Wednesday that he wants to have a "great relationship" with the council and will "respect" each council member.
"We have to be a team to make this city work," he said.
Some of the first groups to get a nod of thanks from Hahn during his victory celebration late Tuesday night were the unions that supported his candidacy, despite pressure from the County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, the powerful umbrella organization that backed Villaraigosa.
The police union, along with the firefighters, carpenters and other trade unions, will find a friend in the Hahn administration, but the new mayor said he will not shut out any groups just because they worked against his victory.
"I am going to remember that there were a lot of people who were there early for me, but it's not going to mean that anybody is on the outs," he said. "I'm looking to work together with everybody. I realize that I didn't get 100% of the vote."
As Hahn's victory party made clear, he had plenty of support from City Hall's establishment. With scores of department heads, union officials and lobbyists in attendance, Hahn's celebration hearkened back to the election night revelry of the city's longtime Democratic Mayor Tom Bradley.
Backers May Have Conflicting Goals
Although Hahn needs to court favor among various groups, some also will have to come to him. The Democratic Party and much of organized labor, for instance, backed Villaraigosa but now will have to work with the new mayor.
"The Democratic Party took a big leap in this election," said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), a Hahn supporter. "And it is going to have to bend over backwards to show it wants to bring everyone together."
"For labor," she said, Hahn's victory will mean "that instead of going to him with their agenda, they are going to have to say, 'How can we work together?' and 'What would you like to see done?' And for the Democratic Party, it is going to have to show that it will do whatever it takes for Jim Hahn to win another four-year term. They need to make that commitment and they need to make it right now."
In at least one respect, Hahn's coalition-building job will be more difficult than that of some of his predecessors. That is because he comes to office with the need to balance the often-opposing political interests of the two groups that helped elect him: African Americans in South Los Angeles and moderate and conservative whites in the San Fernando Valley.
Those two forces could come head-to-head over an already politically charged issue--the fate of LAPD Chief Bernard C. Parks. While the police chief has low favorable ratings throughout the city, African Americans remain his staunch supporters, and Hahn has carefully couched his language about whether he would keep Parks on.
Parks' term is up next year, and the chief has said he will decide later this year about whether to seek a second, five-year term.
At the same time, Hahn has been an advocate of police reform, and was the key city official who helped negotiate the federal consent decree. If public sentiment grows to replace the chief, Hahn may have to risk alienating one of his key constituencies.
Times staff writers Carla Hall and Greg Krikorian contributed to this report.
Nothing fancy: Lack of glitz serves Hahn well. A26
Bitter pill: Some union activists attack federation's role. A27
Major upset: Compton is stunned by Omar Bradley's defeat. B1
Holding out: Two council hopefuls are not conceding. B12