Candidates Appeal to Key Blocs
Mayor James K. Hahn and City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa zipped around Los Angeles on Wednesday, touting new endorsements and appealing to some key voting blocs.
With seven weeks until they face off in the May 17 election, the two mayoral candidates also continued to assail each other, with Villaraigosa again calling Hahn a “part-time mayor” tainted by a federal corruption probe and Hahn suggesting once more that his rival is a flip-flopper who is not tough enough on gang members.
Hahn and Villaraigosa, who are vying for votes in the San Fernando Valley, both touted their endorsements. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich endorsed Hahn, while Villaraigosa won support from several local leaders who had once backed Hahn. Villaraigosa also picked up endorsements from groups that represent black, Latino and Asian police officers.
At an afternoon news conference in front of the county Hall of Administration named for his late father, Hahn showcased his endorsement from Antonovich, a Republican who represents parts of the Valley.
As supporters chanted “Four more years,” Antonovich praised the mayor for his public safety record and for his efforts to prevent state officials from taking money from local coffers.
Hahn struck a law-and-order theme in his remarks, calling himself “a leader who is willing to make tough decisions and to do what is right for the people, the law-abiding citizens of this city.”
And, repeating a charge he has sounded again and again this week, he suggested that his opponent was unwilling to offer clear positions on controversial issues. Earlier, Hahn joined officials from the Simon Wiesenthal Center to denounce comments made by London Mayor Ken Livingstone weeks ago as anti-Semitic. He formally announced that Livingstone was not welcome in Los Angeles and called on the U.S. Conference of Mayors to demand an apology.
The Wiesenthal Center has led a campaign to call on Livingstone to apologize for a comment comparing an aggressive reporter who is Jewish to a concentration camp guard.
Both Hahn and Villaraigosa have attended events designed to appeal to Jewish voters, who made up about 14% of the electorate in the March 8 election that set up their rematch.
Villaraigosa began his day by meeting with Valley leaders, some of whom backed Hahn four years ago and supported Bob Hertzberg in the March election.
Chief among them was Richard Close, president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn., the largest group of its kind in Los Angeles and one of the most powerful.
“Four years ago, I listened to James Hahn. He promised relief from traffic, he promised he would stop overdevelopment, he promised he would bring back businesses to Los Angeles,” Close said. “I was deceived. He hasn’t done any of those things. We need change.”
Joining Close were Gordon Murley, president of the San Fernando Valley Federation and the Woodland Hills Homeowners Assn., and Polly Ward, president of the Federation of Hillside and Canyon Assns.
Villaraigosa hit some now-standard notes in his campaign speech, saying that he was more energetic and better at problem-solving than his opponent. He also said the city could “no longer afford stagnation and corruption probes.”
After that, he picked up endorsements from black, Latino and Asian police officers at a news conference in South Los Angeles. LAPD Sgt. Ronnie Cato, the president of the black officers group, said Villaraigosa was the “best hope for change” for the department and criticized Hahn’s record.
“Four years ago, we had great hopes that things would change within the Police Department in the city,” said Cato, who also heads the Oscar Joel Bryan Foundation. “But it wasn’t long before we realized our hopes were based on empty promises, and maybe even deception. The mayor’s promise to increase the strength of the department has never materialized.”
Cato also said the LAPD had suffered from “racial polarization” and blamed Hahn, saying the mayor has been under the influence of the officers union that endorsed him, the Police Protective League. Cato said the union has “little appreciation for the rights of minority employees and the minority community.”
Art Placencia, president of the Latin American Law Enforcement Assn., said Villaraigosa would deliver more resources to the Police Department while improving the relationship between the LAPD and the community.