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Candidates Work Each Other’s Turf

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Signaling that they intend to fight for votes even on their rival’s strongest turfs, Los Angeles mayoral candidates Antonio Villaraigosa and James K. Hahn both appealed for votes over the weekend in the communities where their opponents fared best in the campaign’s first round.

Villaraigosa met with congregants at one of the city’s largest and best-known African American churches Sunday and planned to step up his push for black voters this morning, with the announcement of more than 20 new endorsements from leaders, including City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas. Those efforts come despite Hahn’s overwhelming popularity among Los Angeles African Americans, both in polls and in the April election results.

Hahn, meanwhile, spoke to about 200 conservative Latino evangelicals at a downtown hotel Saturday, with several ministers saying they support the city attorney in the June 5 election. His campaign has said it will not cede Latino votes to Villaraigosa, who, if elected, would become the first Latino mayor of Los Angeles since 1872.

Villaraigosa’s news conference this morning is expected to draw an array of prominent black business, religious and political leaders and is intended to send the same signal to black voters--namely, that, in the words of Ridley-Thomas, “nobody gets the support of this community by default. You have to earn it.”

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Ridley-Thomas and others say they are prepared to mount a substantial phone, mail and door-to-door campaign to bolster the former Assembly speaker’s showing among African American voters. Villaraigosa placed second in the April 10 election among blacks--but with just 12% support, he finished substantially behind Hahn, who received 71% support, according to a Times exit poll.

“Antonio Villaraigosa has demonstrated in a rather extraordinary way that he has the heart and the capacity to make a substantial difference in the city of Los Angeles,” Ridley-Thomas said in endorsing Villaraigosa.

But Ridley-Thomas and the other African American leaders for Villaraigosa will have to contend with their community’s long and enduring support for Hahn, who has won five terms as city controller and then city attorney. He has benefited enormously from a strong political brand name--established by his father, County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, who served the area for four decades.

Among the religious leaders joining the coalition for Villaraigosa are Bishop John Bryant of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Bishop E. Lynn Brown of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Bishop Leon Ralph of the Interdenominational Church of God of America and J. Benjamin Hardwick, president of the Western Baptist State Convention of California.

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Also endorsing Villaraigosa are Bill Burke, the founder and president of the Los Angeles Marathon; Cynthia McClain-Hill, a member of the California Coastal Commission; Turning Point magazine executive Patricia Means and community organizers including Anthony Thigpenn and Karen Bass.

Many of those joining the Villaraigosa camp have neighborhood networks that they plan to link to the field organization in Ridley-Thomas’ 8th Council District--in an effort to get more black voters to come out for Villaraigosa.

Hahn, however, already counts the support of many of the city’s best-known African American officials and figures, including basketball great Magic Johnson, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), Councilman Nate Holden and Ethel Bradley, widow of the late mayor Tom Bradley.

Senior ministers at some of the city’s most prestigious black churches, including the Rev. William Epps of Second Baptist Church, Bishop Charles Blake of First Angeles Church of God and Christ, and Cecil “Chip” Murray of First AME--the church where Villaraigosa appeared on Sunday--have announced their support for Hahn as well.

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As Villaraigosa attempts to chip away at that base, the leaders rallying around him signaled they plan to question Hahn’s recent support of a plan to convert some police officers to schedules of 12-hour shifts, three days a week. The Villaraigosa backers said the “3-12" schedule might reduce police patrols in crime-plagued neighborhoods.

Hahn has defended the scheduling promise he made to the city’s police union, saying the 3-12 plan is only one of the altered schedules he intends to implement.

In the contest for Latino voters, meanwhile, Hahn faces an uphill struggle not unlike the one confronting Villaraigosa among blacks. The former Assembly speaker won 62% of the Latino vote in April, and many other Latino voters who went to Rep. Xavier Becerra said their second choice heading into the June 5 runoff was Villaraigosa.

But Hahn and his campaign team said they can win Latino votes, particularly among conservatives who they believe will be put off by Villaraigosa’s liberal voting record in the state Legislature. Latino voters supported Mayor Richard Riordan in 1997, when the Republican incumbent, who emphasized increased law enforcement and a revolution in Los Angeles schools, overwhelmingly defeated liberal Democrat Tom Hayden.

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At the meeting Saturday morning at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel, Hahn told the conservative Latino group that “my opponent doesn’t believe in gang injunctions or stiff penalties for those who prey on the weak.”

Although Villaraigosa rebutted those accusations on his crime record, several in the conservative Latino religious alliance said they will vote for Hahn.

“I don’t care if the candidate is white, black, Latino or Asian,” said Julie Menendez of the Christian Coalition. “I care about values and family, and just because a candidate is Hispanic, it doesn’t mean he is for us.”

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Times staff writer Teresa Watanabe contributed to this story.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Schedule of Mayoral Debates The following is the schedule of mayoral debates between former Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa and City Atty. James K. Hahn, who face each other in the June 5 runoff election. All debates will be repeated on Channel 36 during the week after the debate. The schedule is subject to change. For more information, call the League of Women Voters at (323) 939-3535, or visit its Web site at https://www.lwvlosangeles.org.

Tuesday: USC

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Hosted by KCRW’s “Which Way L.A.?” with Warren Olney

Sponsored by the Los Angeles Business Journal

USC’s Davison Center, 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Tickets are available from the Los Angeles Business Journal at (323) 549-5225, Ext. 231.

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May 17: Cal State Northridge

Theme: community and quality of life issues

Moderated by Bill Rosendahl

Sponsored by the North San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce

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Cal State Northridge gymnasium, 7 p.m.

Open seating. Call (818) 361-1840 for more information.

May 22: Los Angeles Times

Moderated by “Air Talk” host Larry Mantle

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Sponsored by The Times and KPCC-FM (89.3)

Times Building, 9-10:30 a.m.

By invitation only

May 29: Plaza de la Raza, El Sereno

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Sponsored by La Opinion, Telemundo (Channel 52) and the National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials

6-7 p.m.

Open seating

May 31: Museum of Tolerance

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Moderated by Xandra Kayden

Sponsored by the Verizon State Forum, the League of Women Voters and KABC-TV Channel 7

7-8 p.m.

By invitation only

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