Making his first citywide endorsement of this municipal elections season, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Thursday backed former Assemblyman Mike Feuer in the hotly contested race for city attorney.
Villaraigosa, appearing with Feuer outside the Variety Boys and Girls Club in Boyle Heights, praised the former lawmaker “as a tireless advocate, as a ferocious fighter for public safety and for kids.”
The endorsement came the same day that campaign finance reports filed with the city showed Feuer to be in the best financial shape of the four candidates on the ballot as the March 5 primary nears.
Counting the $300,000 in matching public funds he qualified for, Feuer had raised nearly $1.2 million by the end of the year and had some $940,000 left to spend. City Atty. Carmen Trutanich, whom Feuer and two others are trying to unseat, reported raising $381,000, which included nearly $159,000 in matching funds, and had $313,000 in cash on hand.
Of the others on the ballot, private attorneys Greg Smith and Noel Weiss, Smith lent his campaign $616,000 -- much of it during the last three months of 2012 -- and reported raising $8,900 in contributions from others, bringing his total contributions to date to $97,000. Smith had $473,000 remaining and has rejected public funds.
Weiss has agreed to accept the spending-limit terms attached to receiving campaign cash from taxpayers but has not qualified for any because he has not raised anything.
In another citywide race, for controller, Councilman Dennis Zine raised the most of any of the six candidates for the open seat: nearly $1 million, counting a $25,000 loan and $267,000 in matching funds.
Trutanich downplayed both Feuer’s financial advantage and the mayor’s endorsement. The city attorney said he had only recently begun raising money -- he announced he would seek reelection shortly after failing to make the runoff in last year’s district attorney election. And Trutanich also held a news conference Thursday to discount the mayor’s endorsement of Feuer.
“The mayor has an appreciation for what those folks do across the street,” Trutanich said, pointing to police headquarters. “But I don’t think he has an appreciation for what we do in this office.”
The mayor and Trutanich have had a cool relationship since 2009, when Trutanich, then an attorney in private practice, beat Villaraigosa’s close political ally, then-Councilman Jack Weiss, to win the city’s top legal post.
Others said the mayor’s endorsement is valuable, though not likely to be the game-changer that the Feuer campaign predicted it would be.
Democratic campaign consultant Eric Hacopian, who is not working for any of the city attorney candidates, said the endorsement, though important, will probably have the most impact with those already inclined to go with Feuer, because the two men appeal to many of the same voters.
Raphael Sonenshein, a longtime observer of Los Angeles politics who heads the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State L.A., said the mayor’s endorsement also could help Feuer with Latinos and African Americans, groups that sided with Rocky Delgadillo when he defeated Feuer for city attorney in 2001.
“The only silver lining for Trutanich,” Sonenshein said, is that it would give him an opportunity to remind voters that he defeated an establishment candidate in the 2009 race. “He could say it’s the City Hall machine” at work, but “on balance it’s a good endorsement for Feuer.”