Wizards Behind the Curtain


They’re smart. They’re quick. They like to think positive but, in a pinch, they’ll go negative faster than gravity goes down. And these political consultants almost always go for Democrats. And they’ve done it about 1,000 times between them. Meet the campaign lions behind the lines in the L.A. mayor’s race.


Howard Blume


Bill Carrick

For Mayor James K. Hahn

Record in post-Tom Bradley mayoral races: 2-1

Nicknames: The Sunny Assassin, Big Time Bill

Great Victories: Hahn beats Antonio Villaraigosa for mayor, 2001; voters reject state initiative to use tax funds to pay for private schools, 2000; Sen. Dianne Feinstein bests millionaire Michael Huffington in the year of the GOP congressional landslide, 1994.

Lamentable Losses: Ex-Mayor Richard Riordan’s school board slate loses to teacher union picks, 2003; Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti is beaten by Steve Cooley, 2000.


Dirty Deeds: Links Villaraigosa to drug dealers in 2001 campaign to scare off middle-class and Anglo crossover voters.

Quotable: “[Carrick] has remained in touch with ordinary people and what they care about better than anybody in this business.” -- Campaign consultant Richie Ross in 2005 interview.

The Book on Carrick: Good locally and nationally. Great for a front-runner candidate with money. Southern charm. Will play hardball.


Parke Skelton

For Antonio Villaraigosa

Record in post-Bradley mayoral races: 0-2

Nicknames: Passion Player, Mailman

Great Victories: Union and community coalition defeats Wal-Mart referendum in Inglewood, 2004; Long Beach Mayor Beverly O’Neill wins reelection as write-in candidate, 2002; challenger Hilda Solis unseats fellow Democrat and House member Mel Martinez, 2000.

Lamentable Losses: Villaraigosa for mayor, 2001.

Quotable: “No one runs smarter campaigns for liberal candidates. I’ve never known [Skelton] to represent a candidate [on] the right wing of the Democratic Party.” -- columnist Harold Meyerson in 2005 interview.

Strange but True: He runs the winning Assembly campaign of Curtis Tucker, who dies before election day 1988. The posthumous win helps Democrats keep control of the Legislature.


The Book on Skelton: Consultant most likely to lose sleep over going negative. Known for left-wing politics and for picking candidate he wants to win. Skilled at direct mail campaigning.


Richie Ross

For Richard Alarcon

Record in post-Bradley mayoral races: 0-0

Nicknames: Pulpit Bully, Sacramento King

Great Victories: Proposition 98, which reserves at least 40% of state budget for schools, 1988; working with state Sen. Richard Polanco, leads campaigns since 1990 that more than triple the size of Latino caucus in Legislature; Cruz Bustamante becomes the first Latino in more than century to hold statewide office (lieutenant governor), 1998.

Lamentable Losses: Front-running Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp stumbles in campaign for governor, loses Democratic primary to Feinstein, 1990; voters approve Proposition 227, which outlaws most bilingual education, 1998; Bustamante’s campaign for governor collapses, recall election goes to Arnold Schwarzenegger, 2003.

Dirty Deed: Writes mailer falsely linking Richard Katz to Latino voter suppression in Orange County, when Katz had actually defended voter rights, 1998. Katz loses state Assembly race by 29 votes to Alarcon.

Quotable: “So am I as pure? No. Have I done my share of selling out? You bet. Have I done things that I’m not proud of? You better believe it.” -- San Francisco Chronicle, September 2003.

The Book on Ross: Plays to win at any cost, both financially and ethically.


John Shallman

For Bob Hertzberg

Record in post-Bradley mayoral races: 1-1

Nicknames: Valley Boy, Longshot John

Great Victories: Riordan for mayor, as deputy campaign manager, 1993; Democrat Loretta Sanchez makes Orange County history, besting Republican House incumbent Robert “B-1 Bob” Dornan, 1996; Wendy Greuel beats Latino fave and Assembly powerhouse Tony Cardenas for Valley council seat, 2002.


Lamentable Losses: Sheriff Sherman Block, who’s dead, loses to challenger Lee Baca, 1998; Democrat and actor Ralph Waite loses House race for Palm Springs area seat to Republican Mary Bono, widow of Sonny, 1998.

Coincidence? Shallman ran for a Valley Assembly seat in 1994 on a platform of breaking up the L.A. Unified School District -- the same position Hertzberg now holds. Shallman finished last.

Quotable: “[The Valley] is the part of the city that is most open to change because [residents] feel the city is headed in the wrong direction.” -- Los Angeles Daily News, January 2005.

The Book on Shallman: Early on, earned reputation for taking and sometimes winning with longshots. Works out of Sherman Oaks, especially clued in to Valley zeitgeist. Ready to go negative.


Jewett L. Walker Jr.

For Bernard Parks

Record in post-Bradley mayoral races: 0-0

Nickname: South-Central Sage

Great Victories: Comeback “kid” Mervyn Dymally returns to Assembly in his mid-70s, despite negatives like his diplomacy on behalf of brutal dictatorships, 2002; Marguerite Poindexter-LaMotte overcomes a Riordan/Carrick campaign to defeat school board incumbent Genethia Hudley-Hayes, 2003.

Lamentable Losses: School board member Barbara Boudreaux loses to Hayes, member of the Riordan reform slate.


Quotable: “It’s not all about having money. It’s knowing what to do with it.” -- Walker on Parks’ campaign, in The Times, January 2005

The Book on Walker: No consultant knows black L.A. better than Walker, but he may have trouble extending Parks’ campaign beyond this base. Took over from higher-priced consultants who had trouble dealing with Parks family and whose salaries ate up too much in funds.