Parks Replaces Top Advisors on His Team

Times Staff Writer

Barely two months before the Los Angeles city election, Councilman Bernard C. Parks has replaced the entire management team of his mayoral campaign, signaling renewed turmoil in his first run for citywide office.

In his latest staff shake-up, Parks has dropped his campaign’s most seasoned advisors: former Clinton White House operatives Chris Lehane and Mark Fabiani; media consultant Eric Jaye, who oversaw Gavin Newsom’s winning run for mayor of San Francisco in 2003; and campaign manager Carol Butler, a veteran of U.S. Senate races.

Parks’ new campaign manager, Jewett Walker, will be the fourth to hold that job since last summer. All of those who stepped aside in the new wave of departures did so by mutual agreement with Parks, according to the campaign.


The staff upheaval comes as Parks faces a steep challenge in raising enough money to compete effectively with Mayor James K. Hahn and the three other major candidates in the March 8 election.

The most recent finance reports available show that Parks had just over $266,000 on hand at the end of September, well behind Hahn ($1.8 million), former state Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg ($822,000) and Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa ($609,553), and just ahead of state Sen. Richard Alarcon ($179,028). The campaigns must file updated reports by Monday.

Parks advisors declined to say what the upcoming report would show. However, the terminology they used in describing the staff changes -- a shift in focus to a grass-roots campaign -- suggested that fundraising had not recovered dramatically.

In an interview, Parks said “limited resources” were a factor in overhauling -- and scaling back -- his management team.

“We did not want to spend the bulk of our money on consultants and have no campaign,” he said.

The candidate’s son, Bernard Parks Jr., took a leave of absence Friday from his job as the councilman’s chief of staff to handle press relations for the campaign. The candidate’s wife, Bobbie Parks, has also been deeply involved in running the campaign and is expected to continue to play a central role.


Trouble in the Parks camp could have significant repercussions for the other candidates, most of all Hahn. The mayor’s support for dumping Parks as Los Angeles police chief in 2002 led to a plunge in Hahn’s support among black voters, a pillar of the mayor’s political base.

Parks, the only African American among the top candidates, has sought to capture the bulk of those votes from Hahn, and thus has posed a major challenge to the mayor’s reelection effort.

But in the April 2001 mayoral race, blacks made up just 14% of the electorate, so Parks must reach beyond his base. A continued shortage of money, strategists say, could hobble his efforts to do that in a city where a week of substantial television advertising costs at least $300,000.

“This is a city that is so vast that you can’t make up in personal campaigning for any deficiency for getting on the air,” said Garry South, a campaign strategist who is not working for any candidate in the race but supports Villaraigosa.

The tendency of Los Angeles voters to pay little attention to local politics before candidates start running television ads heightens the difficulty for Parks, South said.

“The only way you can grab them by the throat and get their attention is to get on the air,” he said.


Fred Register, a Democratic strategist who is unaligned in the race, said Parks’ lackluster fundraising and staff turmoil suggest that “whatever chance he had to be a significant contender citywide is pretty much gone.”

“But his impact on the race, in terms of weakening the mayor, can still be very substantial,” Register said, “because with relatively limited expenditures on radio and some other media -- and by actively campaigning in South Central -- he could still draw a substantial chunk of the vote that might otherwise be available to Hahn.”

Parks’ first campaign manager, Joe Rouzan, stepped down last summer.

His replacement, Dermot Givens, soon stepped aside as acting campaign manager. Givens said he left because Parks failed to do “the things that he should have done to lay the foundation” for his campaign, such as using his reputation as police chief to build a national fundraising network.

“This is surreal,” Givens said of the latest staff changes at the Parks campaign.

Givens was replaced by Butler, who said she had expected to stay until the election, but she agreed with Parks that “it makes much more sense for this campaign to be run as a localized, grass-roots effort.”

“I wish the campaign well,” she said Saturday from her home in North Carolina.

Walker, the newest campaign director, said he had managed campaigns for Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally of Compton and former Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson of Culver City. Walker said he would take a “more community-oriented approach” than his predecessors in the Parks campaign.

“I think we’re still on course,” he said.

“We’re still going to do a lot of the things that they started. We’re just going to add some pieces to the puzzle.”


Jaye, who stepped down as media consultant, said the campaign was “focusing almost exclusively now on a grass-roots effort.”

“They don’t really need media consultants at this point,” he said.