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Villaraigosa Grim on Return From Kerry Campaign

Times Staff Writer

Political junkies and power brokers who craved to be in the center of action on election night were in Boston, Washington, D.C., or even Columbus, Ohio, but certainly not Los Angeles.

Los Angeles City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa was among those who left town to be in the thick of it. A national co-chairman for Sen. John F. Kerry’s campaign, he was back in council Wednesday morning looking grim.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Nov. 17, 2004 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday November 17, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 41 words Type of Material: Correction
Inside Politics -- The Inside Politics column in the Nov. 8 California section contained an item about an election night celebration that said several local prosecutors appeared to have made frequent trips to the open bar. It was a cash bar.

Villaraigosa was one of the speakers Tuesday night at Boston’s Copley Square, where he told a crowd of 10,000 Democratic supporters at 10 o’clock that they should remain optimistic. But within a few hours, as it appeared clear that President Bush was winning Ohio, Villaraigosa found himself in a room of Kerry strategists feeling like the carpet had been yanked out from beneath them.

“It was somber, and there was a lot of disbelieving,” Villaraigosa said. “We started the afternoon believing we were going to win. The exit polls were so strong.”

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Kerry’s loss ended speculation, which Villaraigosa had discounted, that he might win a Cabinet post in a Kerry administration.

City Council President Alex Padilla also left town for the San Francisco Marriott, where he ended up standing on the podium beside U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) as she made her widely televised victory speech.

Boxer pointed to those around her as potential statewide officeholders, a gesture that must have been appreciated by Padilla, who supporters say would like to run for higher office.

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Governor Celebrates Ballot Measure Victories

Even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had to leave L.A., slipping into neighboring Beverly Hills for a victory party.

Schwarzenegger went to a Beverly Hilton Hotel event, which was attended by about 250 supporters who watched returns on state ballot measures that the governor had weighed in on.

Several district attorneys, who appeared to have been frequent visitors to the open bar, spoke on the dangers of Proposition 66, the measure Schwarzenegger opposed to soften the three-strikes law.

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And some Schwarzenegger supporters were wearing big red “Amend for Arnold” buttons, a reference to changing the U.S. Constitution to allow foreign-born citizens to run for president. Even former Gov. Pete Wilson wore one on his lapel.

Nearby, two hard rockers sporting spiked hair and, in one case, a 4-inch goatee stood out in the mostly Republican crowd. Ryan Shuck, a guitarist with Orgy, and David Silvera, the drummer with Korn, described themselves as “Republican rockers” and came as friends of former Broadcom Chief Executive Henry Nicholas, who donated more than $4 million to defeat Proposition 66.

Shuck said Nicholas paid for $1 million in advertising to run on rock radio stations featuring Shuck and Silvera dissing Proposition 66. “Our role was telling anyone under 30 that this [proposed] law was pooh,” Shuck said.

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Nothing Goes Well on Election Day for Baca

Election day did not go as planned for Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who backed a losing sales tax measure to inject nearly $200 million per year into his careworn department.

The day got off to an inauspicious start when Baca, who lives in San Marino, neglected to check the back of his sample ballot, which would have informed him that his polling place had changed.

Days earlier, the sheriff had invited reporters to watch him cast his vote at 9 a.m. at the San Marino Women’s Club. A sign on the door Tuesday read: “Dear Voter, This location is not a polling place for today’s election.”

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Instead, the sheriff was supposed to vote at a church across the street from his home. “I didn’t know they moved it,” he said sheepishly. “I always vote at the Women’s Club.”

The mishap turned out to be the least of his troubles. Measure A fell short of the two-thirds margin needed to pass.

At an election night party at Taix restaurant in Echo Park, Baca sensed defeat. Even before the polls closed, he warned that he would return with another proposed tax. “The voters should not be thinking they dodged a bullet here,” he said. “We have a very demanding public who wants services, but they don’t want to pay for it.”

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Politician Places Safe Bet With His Endorsements

Talk about hedging your bets.

Incoming Orange County Assemblyman Van Tran (R-Garden Grove) sent mail urging support for both candidates in a hotly contested race for a Santa Ana City Council seat.

His endorsement on behalf of Alexander “Sandy” Nalle praised the candidate for being “a great friend of the Vietnamese community.”

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In a mailer sent out by Orange County Republicans on behalf of Nalle’s opponent, Carlos Bustamante, Tran called Bustamante the “Republican choice” for the council seat.

“He is supported by an impressive list of Republican leaders, and I am proud to add my name to that growing list.”

Bustamante beat Nalle by 20 percentage points.

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Nonvoter for 2 Decades Has an Epiphany at Polls

At least one avowed nonvoter reversed himself Tuesday.

After declaring last week in The Times that he feared he hadn’t studied enough to vote, Steven Kates, 48, a personal trainer, changed his mind and headed to his polling place after a morning run.

“This feels like a 10K,” Kates said as he waited to sign in at the Brentwood Presbyterian Church polling place. “Everyone scrambling to fill out forms.... There’s a buzz.”

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Kates hadn’t voted in two decades and, as he suspected, his name was not on the ledger.

“Are you a new voter? Inactive, maybe?” poll worker Sharon Solimine asked sympathetically. “It’s always a little something.”

She offered him a provisional ballot.

Afterward, Kates affixed the “I Voted” sticker to his T-shirt.

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“The epiphany for me is that the system is based on a person’s ability to suss it all out and do the best you can,” Kates said.

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Points Taken

* Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn made the rounds of local political parties on election night accompanied by two sets of staff: one from his City Hall office and one from his reelection campaign. Joining the mayor at Hollywood’s Pig ‘n Whistle with water bond supporters were Nathalie Rayes, his deputy chief of staff, and Julie Wong, his campaign spokeswoman.

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* Conny McCormack, the Energizer Bunny registrar-recorder in charge of Los Angeles County elections, is ill with the West Nile virus. She was sick until the week before election day and then rallied to work, against her doctor’s orders, around the clock for the election.

* Some guys give their wives flowers on their birthdays. Gov. Schwarzenegger gave his the wing of a hospital. Actually, Schwarzenegger surprised his wife by contributing more than $1 million to St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, which named its new 12-bed nursery the Maria Shriver Nursery. “Other than my marriage, the happiest days of my life were spent here at St. John’s when my four children were born,” she told the Palisadian Post.

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You Can Quote Me

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“You are one bad dude.”

Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas, praising R&B; singer and composer Isaac Hayes during a ceremony at City Hall honoring the Grammy winner for his charitable work.

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Contributing this week were Times staff writers Jason Felch, Sue Fox, Carla Hall, Noam N. Levey, Caitlin Liu, Peter Nicholas and Jean O. Pasco.

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