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L.A. Councilmen Huizar, Parks still outpace foes in fundraising

With less than six weeks before the Los Angeles city elections, Eastside Councilman Jose Huizar and South L.A. Councilman Bernard C. Parks were still outpacing their challengers in fundraising in two of the mostly closely watched races on the March 8 ballot.

Though not all of the latest financial reports had been filed by Thursday evening, the other incumbent council members — Tony Cardenas, Paul Krekorian, Tom LaBonge and Herb Wesson — appeared to have outraised their opponents by at least 3 to 1 by the end of the filing period Jan. 22 (and in one case 12 to 1). The only open seat this election cycle is in the northwest San Fernando Valley district of retiring Councilman Greig Smith, but Smith’s chief of staff has raised nearly $444,000. His closest opponent reported contributions totaling $33,915.

In the heated race in the 14th District, which stretches from downtown to Boyle Heights and north to Eagle Rock, new financial filings show that businessman Rudy Martinez increased his personal investment in his bid to unseat Huizar to $200,000 — a sum greater than the annual salary earned by council members.

Before the close of the filing period, Martinez, who owns a sushi restaurant and a real estate business that has been featured on the A&E television show “Flip This House,” loaned his campaign $50,000. He received contributions from others totaling $215 — bringing his cumulative total to $260,035.

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Huizar raised $21,630 from nearly 70 contributors and received an influx of $100,000 in public matching funds, which Martinez has rejected. The incumbent has amassed $338,865 to date, giving him a $109,150 edge in cash on hand.

“From our perspective we see it as the Eastside versus Meg Whitman,” Huizar’s campaign manager Michael Trujillo said in a reference to the former EBay chief executive who was defeated by Gov. Jerry Brown after spending $141.5 million of her own money on her campaign last year. Martinez “hasn’t seen any traction. He hasn’t picked up any significant endorsements. In terms of people wanting to invest in his campaign, it’s drying up faster than the real estate bubble did.”

Martinez said he is continuing to raise money for his race but has focused on meeting with voters. “I set aside $250,000 for this race, and the reason I did this — I need to be independent and Jose Huizar is taking special interest money like he always has,” Martinez said. “I am beholden to nobody but the constituents of the 14th District. I am not Meg Whitman. I’m a small-business owner who has worked his entire life.”

Parks, the former police chief who is running for his third term representing the 8th District, has raised more than $131,426, while his chief opponent, Forescee Hogan-Rowles, has brought in $21,614 and has not yet met the fundraising threshold that would qualify her for public matching funds.

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During the January filing period, Hogan-Rowles reported $3,870 in contributions, including from her campaign consultant Steve Barkan, who previously worked as an advisor to Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas as well as Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles). Barkan said Hogan-Rowles has not yet been billed for services from his firm, SG&A Campaigns.

Parks raised $8,400 over the period from 19 contributors, including $900 in contributions from himself and his wife. He has nearly $83,500 in cash on hand, compared with Hogan-Rowles’ $9,470.

Though Hogan-Rowles has little left in her campaign treasury, her campaign could be boosted by outside spending on her behalf by the powerful labor groups that have backed her, including the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18.

Her latest endorsement Thursday came from the union that represents some 9,900 rank-and-file Los Angeles police officers.

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The Los Angeles Police Protective League’s backing of Hogan-Rowles, who runs a nonprofit group based in South L.A., reflects the contentious history between the union and Parks, who served one five-year term as chief before he was ousted in 2002 by then-Mayor James K. Hahn’s civilian police commission.

The commission’s decision not to reappoint Parks to a second term followed an intensive campaign against him by the union. Parks, a 38-year veteran of the department, had clashed with the union repeatedly, particularly over his approach to discipline, which many rank-and-file officers viewed as too punitive. In a union poll at the time Parks was up for reappointment, 93% of members surveyed said they had no confidence in Parks.

The union opposed Parks when he ran for mayor in 2005 and for the Board of Supervisors in 2008. During his tenure on the council, Parks has continued to be at odds with the union over contract negotiations, some hiring decisions and officers’ schedules of three 12-hour shifts a week.

The league’s leaders were not immediately available for comment on their decision Thursday, but one source familiar with the deliberations said the group voted to support Hogan-Rowles by a wide margin.

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Parks said the endorsement of his opponent was no surprise.

“They didn’t support me when I was the chief; they didn’t support me when I ran for council, so there’s no expectation that they’re going to be there,” Parks said. “The union board is not a force in South Los Angeles. They don’t look like South Los Angeles; they don’t represent them.”

He added that he would “not have accepted” the group’s endorsement.

Hogan-Rowles said that in her meeting with the union she expressed her “willingness to be open and listen” to officers’ concerns and said she would work to keep retirement benefits for LAPD officers intact.

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Parks, the council’s budget chairman, has repeatedly expressed concern that police and fire pensions and benefits are consuming an increasing share of the city’s budget each year. The city is facing a shortfall of $350 million next year.

During her work as a commissioner on the board of the Department of Water and Power, Hogan-Rowles said she “never went after the retirement pensions as a way to try to balance the budget. When people work and invest all those years and that time, they deserve a respectable retirement with dignity.”

Parks fired back that pension and medical benefit costs now consume one-fourth of the city’s budget, and at the DWP “40 cents of every dollar [of their operating budget] now pays for pensions,” which he believes led to DWP rate increases while Hogan-Rowles was on the board.

“If it’s not sustainable,” he said of the current pension and benefit structure, “at some point in time something is going to collapse.”

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maeve.reston@latimes.com


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