Heavy Hitters' Gifts to Padilla Strike Some as Excessive

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Even though he faces no opponent, Councilman Alex Padilla has still raised more than $148,000 for his reelection campaign in the 7th Council District. That's more--much more, in some cases--than many lesser-known candidates struggling to capture other Valley seats.

Padilla launched his campaign last year anticipating some type of challenge, said his spokesman, David Gershwin. But even after no rival stepped forward, Padilla's fund-raising machine continued to grind. In just the last two months, the councilman has collected $90,000 in contributions, according to campaign finance reports.

And he's not done yet. On Tuesday, Padilla expects to rake in about $100,000 at a cocktail reception and dinner at the Biltmore Hotel. The fund-raiser is being co-chaired by some of the heaviest hitters in Los Angeles politics, including Mayor Richard Riordan, City Atty. James Hahn (a leading candidate for mayor), and City Council President John Ferraro.

"They know he's going to be around for four to eight more years," Gershwin said. "They definitely want to support him."

All the cash for a shoo-in incumbent seems a tad excessive to some candidates who are paddling upstream in hotly contested races. Victor Viereck, for example, has pulled in less than $5,000 in his longshot bid for the neighboring 5th Council District seat.

"I don't know why, being uncontested, [Padilla] needs to raise all that," said Viereck, a certified public accountant who is running near the back of the pack in his 11-way race.

"I'm way down there at the bottom," he said. "I feel uncomfortable asking for money. I'm not persistent."

That doesn't seem to be a problem for Padilla, a young political aide who rocketed into office in 1999 with strong backing from labor unions and Riordan. This year, the councilman took in dozens of $500 contributions from developers, unions and business owners, as well as many smaller donations.

Donors giving $500 include Police Commissioner Bert Boeckmann; biotech mogul Alfred Mann; developer Gerald Katell; the Hansen Dam Equestrian Center; the Los Angeles Police Protective League; and Laborers International Union Local 300.

Padilla plans to dip into his campaign chest to pay for mailers touting projects in his district, such as the construction of new branch libraries and a Children's Museum, Gershwin said. He may take out ads in local newspapers. Any leftover cash will be rolled into Padilla's officeholder account, to be used for travel and other expenses.

And what sort of campaign would it be without a victory party?

"He'll probably have an election night celebration," Gershwin said. "That will be paid for by campaign funds."

Judging by the size of his account, that should be some bash.

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SLOGANEERING: Riordan won election in 1993 with a catchy campaign slogan "Tough Enough to Turn L.A. Around."

Ever since, candidates for city office have tried to come up with slogans that will set them apart from the rest of the field.

That is true of the contenders for the southwest Valley's 3rd District seat on the Los Angeles City Council. At a recent forum in Studio City, the candidates paraded out slogans and other gimmicks for an audience of business leaders.

Tsilah Burman told the crowd they can remember how to pronounce her first name by remembering the phrase "See L.A."

"I'm the candidate with a vision for a new and better Los Angeles," she said, repeating a line she has used on several audiences.

Next there was candidate Dennis Zine.

"If you vote for Dennis Zine, everything will be fine," he recited for the amused audience.

Candidate Jason Dominguez passed out a flier with his own slogan: "Improving Valley Neighborhoods."

Francine Oschin said she briefly considered but discarded the idea of a slogan using her name.

"The problem is, nothing rhymes with either Francine or Oschin," she said.

Among the slogans she thought of but ruled out: "Get in Motion with Oschin."

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SUNSHINING: Cindy Miscikowski may be favored by pundits to win reelection April 10, but the Los Angeles city councilwoman is facing discontent from Democratic activists in the San Fernando Valley portion of her district.

That was apparent Monday night when the executive board of the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley took the unusual step of voting not to endorse the incumbent against little-known challenger Arthur Mortell in the coming election.

Miscikowski sought the coveted endorsement, even sitting for an interview with activists on the 43-member executive board.

"We did consider her and her opponent but we decided to make no endorsement in the race," said Board Chairman Jeff Daar, who declined to elaborate.

However, interviews with board members found widespread feeling that Miscikowski, who lives in a gated community in Brentwood, has neglected the Valley portion of her district, which includes portions of Van Nuys, Encino, Woodland Hills and Sherman Oaks.

"It was a concern that she hasn't been particularly visible in the Valley and at Democratic activities out here," said one board member. "And there were also concerns about Sunshine Canyon."

The dissatisfaction extends beyond Democratic activists. Gordon Murley, a Republican who is president of the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization, said he endorsed Miscikowski four years ago and worked on her campaign, but is withholding his endorsement this year.

Miscikowski, who was first elected to the 11th District council seat in 1997, did not return calls for comment, but Rick Taylor, her political consultant, was not concerned about the loss of the Valley Democrats' endorsement.

He noted that the Los Angeles County Democratic Central Committee has backed her.

As for the landfill becoming an issue, Taylor said Miscikowski does not regret her vote.

"She clearly supported Sunshine Canyon expanding and she sticks by it. She is not going to please 100% of the people," Taylor said.

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ALL IN THE FAMILY: Mayor Richard Riordan's latest appointment to a city commission seems particularly well-qualified.

Janet Fitch, who spent her early years in the San Fernando Valley, attending Lemay Elementary School in Van Nuys before heading to West Los Angeles and Fairfax High School, has been appointed by Riordan to the city Library Commission.

Fitch knows something about books. She is the author of the best-selling novel "White Oleander" about a teenage girl who survives a series of foster homes, including one in Van Nuys, after her mother is sent to jail.

Fitch said picking a novelist to oversee libraries is a good idea.

"I'm really surprised it's not more usual," she said. "We are the heaviest users of the libraries."

One of her earliest memories was of checking out two dozen books every two weeks at the Memorial Branch Library.

"It was like Halloween. I would get home and gloat over all the books I had," Fitch said.

Fitch won't have to rely on books for figuring out her new city post. Fitch's own mother can provide her with some first-hand advice about getting things done at City Hall.

Alma Fitch is a top City Hall lobbyist.

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LOOKING FOR FUNDS: Former Rep. James E. Rogan of Glendale is back on the hunt for campaign money.

But this time, he's not the candidate.

Rogan, who lost his seat in November to Democrat Adam Schiff of Burbank, formed a committee called Patriot PAC last month to raise money for fellow Republicans running for Congress or the state Legislature.

"As a congressman under fire, I had to hold my breath many times and pray that the cavalry was coming to help me," Rogan told potential donors last month in a letter. "Now I want to be part of the cavalry for others."

Rogan raised $6.9 million in his failed bid for reelection in one of the most expensive congressional races in history.

Now, he is tapping his nationwide network of donors to raise up to $2 million by the November 2002 election for Patriot PAC, said Jason Roe, the political action committee's executive director. Most will be spent on candidates in California, he said.

In his letter, Rogan recalled drawing "lots of cannon fire" in his own battle for reelection.

"When Bill Clinton, with the help of Hollywood liberals, carried out his personal vendetta against me for my role in his impeachment trial, I was literally barraged with negative advertising and personal attacks for almost two straight years," he said.

Rogan is a partner now at a Washington law firm, Venable, Baetjer, Howard & Civiletti.

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