Seeking an early advantage in the Los Angeles mayor’s race, former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg on Monday unveiled the campaign’s most extensive website and its first political advertisement.
In a 45-second web-based video, Hertzberg blasts Mayor James K. Hahn for providing “zero leadership” and invites supporters to visit the new website, which features many of the trend-setting, high-tech tools that helped build enthusiasm for former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s presidential campaign.
“We want to run a transformational type of campaign that includes people at the grass roots,” Hertzberg campaign manager John Shallman said, pointing to direct e-mails, web video and an interactive website with a “Hertz-blog.”
Hahn does not plan to debut his website until the fall, said his political strategist Bill Carrick. But Carrick said Monday he is not worried about Hertzberg’s aggressive Internet strategy and new commercial.
“Everybody in the presidential race had bells and whistles on their websites. Howard Dean did better because he had something to say,” Carrick said. “I don’t think Bob Hertzberg has anything to say so far.”
Hertzberg’s strategy, however, marks the first attempt by a Los Angeles mayoral candidate to replicate the successes that candidates have had using the Internet.
He has even turned for advice to Joe Trippi, a prominent national strategist who helped develop Dean’s Internet campaign strategy.
Hertzberg’s website -- www.changela.com -- allows visitors to send the candidate advice on changing neighborhoods and City Hall, and to read and respond to his “blogs.”
Visitors can make donations, find out about campaign events and “Have a BBQ for Bob,” a feature that allows supporters to “invite your friends to eat burgers and dogs and chat with Bob.”
And the site features the first commercial of the campaign, in which Hertzberg asks, “When was the last time a new idea came out of the mayor’s office?” against a backdrop of images of traffic, crowded schools and graffiti. In the ad, Hertzberg also signals his intent to make an issue of the ongoing investigations into connections between city contracting and political donations.
In a mass e-mail to more than 50,000 people Monday, campaign manager Shallman also asked supporters to send $10 donations to the campaign.
Phil Noble, a national Democratic political strategist and an expert on the use of the Internet in politics, said Hertzberg’s strategy of using the Internet early is a wise one.
“In one sense, the Internet is custom made for an outsider running a nontraditional campaign,” Noble said.
That approach, coupled with a dynamic Internet campaign, is largely credited for Dean’s rise from an obscure, small-state governor to a well-funded front-runner before his campaign collapsed earlier this year.
Although a seasoned fundraiser and former San Fernando Valley assemblyman, Hertzberg is trying to portray himself as someone running against the entrenched power structure that helped elect Hahn three years ago.
With the web campaign and an energetic fundraising effort, Hertzberg so far appears to be outpacing Hahn’s other challengers.
Besides Hertzberg, the only major candidate with a functioning campaign website is Councilman Bernard C. Parks, although many features on his site -- www.bernardparks.com -- are not yet working. State Sen. Richard Alarcon, a Sylmar Democrat, said he expects to open a site in July. Hahn’s old campaign site -- www.jimhahn.org -- hasn’t been updated since shortly after Hahn won the election three years ago.
Hertzberg’s campaign also announced Monday that it has raised $450,000 and expects to surpass $600,000 by Wednesday, more than triple what any of Hahn’s other challengers have raised.
But the Sherman Oaks Democrat still trails the mayor by a wide margin. Hahn, who had raised $1.3 million by the end of last year, is expected to far exceed that when candidates report their fundraising for the first half of 2004.
And Carrick said the Hahn campaign is looking forward to taking on a man they are already describing as a Sacramento insider. “I want him to do well. He’s the guy I want,” Carrick said. “I think he’s the weakest one of the bunch.”
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Hertzberg’s Campaign for Mayor
Sponsor: Bob Hertzberg for a Great L.A.
Script: Hertzberg: “Los Angeles. This is our city. Four million people. Zero leadership. This is City Hall. When was the last time a new idea came out of the mayor’s office to fix traffic, relieve overcrowded schools and restore our neighborhoods? Fact is, no one is going to change our city for us -- especially some of the people in this building who value campaign donors more than ordinary citizens. Only you can change Los Angeles. Only you have the power to make a real difference for our future. Go to ChangeLA.com. Please join me, Bob Hertzberg. Together, we can change more than City Hall. We can change our city -- and make it a place we’re proud to call home again.”
Images: The online ad opens with photos of the city’s skyline, the San Fernando Valley, the Hollywood sign and people. The words “zero leadership” appear on the screen in capital letters. The ad shifts to a photo of City Hall followed by images of backed-up traffic, a crowded school and a graffiti-covered building. Then back to a photo of City Hall illuminated at night. A photo of $50 bills follows. Then photos of smiling people appear, followed by a logo for ChangeLA.com with a blue L.A. over a red star. The ad shifts to a photo of Hertzberg in an office followed by a photo of Hertzberg talking to people. The ad ends with the Hertzberg campaign logo and the city skyline at sunset.
Analysis: The advertisement, though broadcast only online, is the first of the 2005 mayoral campaign and highlights the main charge James K. Hahn’s challengers are leveling against him: lack of imaginative leadership. It also reflects Hertzberg’s aim to portray his campaign as a broad effort to enlist Angelenos in a movement to transform city government. The ad’s focus on Hahn’s record on issues such as traffic, schools and neighborhoods also provides a preview of the debate over Hahn’s record that will likely be central to the campaign. Hahn’s representatives fiercely dispute Hertzberg’s charges. Indeed, Hahn has presided over a significant effort to empower neighborhoods through new neighborhood councils. And the mayor has celebrated a reduction in crime that he says is improving the quality of life in many neighborhoods. On traffic and school construction, the mayor boasts less dramatic accomplishments, such as installing left-turn lanes at troublesome intersections and improving relations between the city and the school district to ease development of new sites for schools.
Compiled by Times staff writer Noam N. Levey
Los Angeles Times