Mayoral Candidates Take the Heat in Quest for Votes

Times Staff Writers

Whether trying to eat a deli lunch or quietly going about their business at home, more than a few Los Angeles residents were interrupted Saturday by Mayor James K. Hahn and Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, who scoured the city for votes.

“Hi, I’m Jim Hahn. How are you today? That looks good,” Hahn said again and again as he drifted from booth to booth at Junior’s Deli in West Los Angeles, trailing a mob of cameras, aides and reporters, and creating an obstacle course for servers bearing bagels and eggs.

At one table, Shirley Buter, 69, who said she would decide how to vote on Tuesday morning, told Hahn that she had been a great admirer of his father, the late county Supervisor Kenneth Hahn.


Hahn thanked her, then confided that his father had often advised him not to go into politics.

Villaraigosa, meanwhile, strolled through a Westchester neighborhood where he visited several homes with an entourage of nearly 20 aides and supporters.

Under a hot sun on 87th Street, he stopped at the door of Lorelei Sun, who held her 3-day-old son Joshua in her arms. The new mother looked surprised and put her hand over her mouth. Later, she said, “I was undecided. Now I’m going to go vote.” She would not name her preferred candidate. But as he moved to the next house, Villaraigosa announced victoriously, “I got a vote in there.”

In between courting voters at rallies, Jewish temples, delis and neighborhood arts festivals, the candidates also continued to spar over a few narrow issues that have little to do with the future of the nation’s second-largest city but served to reinforce their campaign themes.

Hahn accused Villaraigosa of being a silver-tongued flip-flopper who can’t be trusted, while Villaraigosa painted Hahn as a desperate mudslinger who will levy any charge to distract people from looking at his own record.

“We know there is a lot at stake in this election,” Hahn said at a morning rally at his Miracle Mile campaign headquarters. He touted the drop in the city’s crime rate during his first term, assailed Villaraigosa again for voting against a bill that toughened the penalties for child-abusers who kill children and concluded: “Antonio Villaraigosa cannot be trusted.”

The crowd of about 40 supporters yelled, “Go, Jim, Go!” and “Four More Years!” before heading out to walk precincts.

The so-called Tyler Jaeger Act has been Hahn’s main topic for days. Villaraigosa was the only assemblyman who voted against it in 1996. On Saturday, the Hahn campaign released a legislative analysis that concluded 40 people were sentenced under the law between 2002 and 2004.

After a rally outside a Trader Joe’s in Westchester, Villaraigosa, responding to Hahn’s continued attack on the child-abuse bill, said Hahn is “not talking about his record. He’s talking and mischaracterizing and misrepresenting my record.”

At one point, the Villaraigosa campaign operation beat Hahn to one of his events and held a news conference to highlight its topic of recent days.

Villaraigosa campaign manager Ace Smith brought several black Los Angeles residents with him to call on the mayor to stop his campaign of “misleading phone calls” to voters.

The Times reported last week that scripts for the calls focus on Villaraigosa’s role as a leader of the American Civil Liberties Union and claim that he has not hired enough African American staff members for his council office.

Villaraigosa’s campaign has filed a complaint with the City Ethics Commission, contending the Hahn campaign failed to file the scripts.

Late in the afternoon, in a very warm San Fernando Valley, Hahn was approached by a businesswoman who said she needed help to promote her business -- in Agoura Hills.

Oh, well, not an L.A. voter after all.

“Agoura Hills, that’s just a little bit outside the city of Los Angeles,” he explained, as an aide motioned frantically to indicate it was time for the next event.