Perry throws endorsement to Garcetti

Jan Perry, the strong favorite of African Americans in the March 5 primary for Los Angeles mayor, plans to announce Thursday that she is backing her ex-rival Eric Garcetti in the May runoff, her spokeswoman said.

Perry’s endorsement is one of the most prized in the May 21 contest between Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel. Perry has been a colleague of Garcetti’s on the City Council for almost 12 years.

Neither Garcetti nor Greuel emerged from the primary with significant backing among black voters, one of the biggest blocs up for grabs in the runoff. For weeks, the two have been competing fiercely to line up support from high-profile African Americans.


Greuel, who often reminisces about working as an aide to the city’s first black mayor, Tom Bradley, scored endorsements this week from Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and former President Bill Clinton, a popular figure among African Americans.

Those announcements deflected attention from turmoil in Greuel’s campaign. She hired a new campaign manager, Janelle Erickson, to take charge of day-to-day operations last week, removing those duties from another top advisor, Rose Kapolczynski.

In addition, Greuel’s field director and three others quit the campaign. All four had worked in the get-out-the-vote operation of President Obama’s reelection campaign. The shake-up came after Greuel finished second in the primary, in which she and her allies far outspent Garcetti.

The final tally for the primary, released by the city clerk’s office Tuesday, confirmed that Garcetti led with 33%, followed by Greuel at 29%. Talk radio personality Kevin James came in third with 16%. Perry finished fourth, also with 16%. Emanuel Pleitez, a former aide to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, won 4%.

With all the ballots counted, turnout was 21% of the city’s 1.8 million registered voters, up from a preliminary turnout rate of 16% based on ballots counted on election night.

The results confirmed that Perry swept the most heavily African American neighborhoods of South Los Angeles and the Pacoima area of the San Fernando Valley, underscoring the value of her support in the Greuel-Garcetti runoff.

Spokeswoman Helen Sanchez said Perry “examined both of their records very carefully and felt that Garcetti had a very solid record and was the best candidate to move the city forward.”

There was a personal dimension to Perry’s decision. In her campaign’s closing days, Perry was deeply offended by Greuel attacking her for a 1994 personal bankruptcy tied to the failure of her ex-husband’s law practice. Greuel, who lives in Studio City, served on the council with Perry for seven years.

But Perry’s endorsement of Garcetti was no sure thing.

She felt betrayed by Garcetti last year when he voted for new council district boundaries that took away nearly all of Perry’s cherished downtown turf, leaving her mainly with impoverished neighborhoods along the Harbor Freeway. Perry’s role in downtown’s economic comeback was a key focus of her campaign. She lives on Bunker Hill, outside her new district.

Greuel stayed on the attack Wednesday. Speaking from a lectern outside City Hall, she blamed Garcetti for the city’s surge in unemployment during his watch as council president.

“Eric Garcetti has also left Los Angeles with huge budget deficits,” Greuel said.

Like Garcetti, Greuel voted on the council in 2007 for raises of up to 25% over five years for thousands of city workers, despite the budget shortfall that the city was facing as the economy was turning downward. Speaking privately to union audiences during the campaign, Greuel has criticized Garcetti for backing layoffs and furloughs of city workers to balance the budget.

Unions representing the bulk of the city workforce have lined up behind Greuel and spent heavily to get her elected. Also backing her is the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

Garcetti sought to highlight his own labor support Wednesday at a rally of more than 100 workers at a union hall south of downtown.

“He is ready to fight for us,” said Mike Perez, president of SEIU’s United Service Workers West, which represents more than 40,000 janitors, airport workers, security officers and others. Perez was interrupted by chants of “Si se puede!” and “Garcetti!”

After the rally, Garcetti dismissed Greuel’s contention that he was to blame for the city’s high unemployment. “There was a countrywide recession happening,” he said. “That’s what I read in the newspapers.”