The first round of the Los Angeles mayor’s race featured a series of 40 debates, sometimes as many as two a day, but during the first five weeks of the runoff election the two finalists have yet to confront each other face-to-face on the issues.
That will change Thursday night at 7 p.m. , when City Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel square off at American Jewish University in Bel-Air. KABC-TV Channel 7 plans to broadcast the hourlong forum live.
ABC7 anchor Marc Brown will moderate with questions from a three-member panel — Adrienne Alpert of ABC7’s Eyewitness News, Rob Eshman, editor in chief of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, and Gabriela Teissier, Univision news anchor.
The debate’s sponsors are the American Jewish Committee of Los Angeles, the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish University.
Times staffers Bill Nottingham and Laura J. Nelson will be tweeting during the debate. Follow them here.
After a slow start in the runoff, Garcetti and Greuel expect to square off in a total of a dozen debates between now and election day, May 21. Earlier televised debates drew from 62,000 to 105,000 viewers — paltry by TV standards but potentially meaningful in an election in which fewer than 400,000 of 1.8 million registered voters may cast ballots.
Greuel will be trying to break out of a defensive posture she had to assume in many earlier forums — when she was attacked not only by Garcetti but by City Councilwoman Jan Perry, Republican lawyer Kevin James and former technology executive Emanuel Pleitez.
All of those candidates were after voters in Greuel’s San Fernando Valley base. They spent many of the long string of primary-season debates depicting the controller as a tool of city employee unions— particularly the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents most workers at the city’s Department of Water and Power.
The DWP union was the main financial force behind an independent committee that spent more than $2 million on Greuel’s behalf before the March 5 primary. Just this week, the IBEW kicked another $500,000 into the pro-Greuel committee known as Working Californians.
Greuel may try to regain the initiative in her first encounter with Garcetti by talking about education reform. She unveiled some of her plans earlier Thursday in a news conference, pledging to be “the education-reform mayor." She said she would push for rules to make it easier to dismiss under-performing teachers and support the so-called “parent-trigger,” which allows parents at poor schools to force changes, including takeovers by independent school operators.
Mayors in Los Angeles do not have a direct say in the operations of the Los Angeles Unified School District, though Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has supported candidates for school board and backed a group of charter schools.
Greuel has suggested that Garcetti will be less likely to push true reform because he has the backing of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), which represents more than 35,000 classroom teachers, nurses and counselors.
Both candidates have attempted to position themselves as pragmatists, who will fill potholes, fix broken sidewalks and maintain police service.
Before the March 5 primary, they mostly shied away from loftier rhetoric, though Thursday’s debate will present an opportunity for a change in tone.