Attack ads in L.A. mayor’s race seek Latino votes

Candidates for Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel talk on stage before a debate at Cal State L.A.'s Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Institute of Public Affairs in February.
(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

The importance of Latinos in next week’s mayoral election was highlighted again Wednesday as a new round of dueling attacks ads emerged seeking to undermine both candidates’ appeal to Spanish-speaking voters.

In one spot appearing on Spanish-language television channels, longtime Democrat Wendy Greuel is criticized for having been registered as a Republican in the early 1990s during the era of former Gov. Pete Wilson — a figure reviled by many Latinos for his sponsorship of a ballot measure to deny immigrants in the country illegally certain government benefits.

In a separate Spanish-language TV ad scheduled to air Thursday, candidate Eric Garcetti is accused of wearing a “Latino mask” and forcing working-class Latinos out of Hollywood during his revitalization efforts there.


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The attacks come as Greuel’s backers try to carve away at Garcetti’s lead among Latinos, who account for nearly half the city’s population and nearly a third of its registered voters. A poll released last week by the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State L.A. showed Garcetti and Greuel in a dead heat, but with Latinos favoring Garcetti 48% to 36%.

On Wednesday, Greuel and several Latino supporters held a news conference in Boyle Heights denouncing a 30-second commercial that links her to Wilson, who pushed the controversial ballot initiative, Proposition 187, which was approved by voters but struck down in large part by the courts.

The commercial was paid for by Lots of People Who Support Eric Garcetti for Mayor 2013, a group whose major donors include several labor unions that have endorsed Garcetti. It splices together photos of Greuel and Wilson and says: “During the anti-immigrant era of Pete Wilson, Wendy Greuel was a Republican.”

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Greuel blasted the ad as misleading, saying she did not vote for Wilson when he ran in 1990, switched her party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in 1992 and opposed Proposition 187 when it was on the 1994 ballot.

Political scientist Jaime Regalado said Proposition 187 is still seen as “a call to arms for Latinos.”

A professor emeritus of political science at Cal State L.A., Regalado said the attack is a testament to how close the mayor’s race is, how nasty it has become and how crucial the Latino electorate will be Tuesday. “It’s all about the Latino vote,” he said.

In the TV ad attacking Garcetti, who is partly Latino and speaks Spanish, the councilman’s ethnic identity is called into question.

Feliciano Serrano, a doctor backing Greuel, filed paperwork with the city saying he intends to spend nearly $200,000 on air time for the ad. It accuses Garcetti, who is descended from Mexican immigrants of Italian blood, of masquerading as a Latino to run for office.

Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman called the allegation “shameful.”

“Eric is proud of his Latino heritage and it’s shameful for Wendy Greuel’s allies to say otherwise,” he said.

The ad, which features Garcetti in front of a wall of flames, also accuses the candidate of displacing thousands of Latino families in Hollywood “to benefit people with money.”

“What kind of Latino treats his own people that way?” the ad asks.

In the past, Garcetti’s office has rejected the claim by some that Latinos were displaced in large numbers during Garcetti’s revitalization efforts in Hollywood.