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Opinion

Opinion: Someone is smearing L.A. City Council candidate Loraine Lundquist as a socialist AND a right-winger

City Council candidates
Council candidate Loraine Lundquist, right, introduces herself with opponent John Lee, left, during a Neighborhood Council Town Hall Meeting in July.
(Los Angeles Times)

Voters in the North San Fernando Valley have a stark choice in the City Council election on Tuesday.

According to one piece of campaign literature sent last year, they can choose the lefty candidate affiliated with socialists, whose “extremist political agenda” calls for jacking up property and healthcare taxes and forcing people to buy electric cars.

Or, in the view of a new mailer, they can pick the “loyal” right-winger Republican who taught at a school that banned LGBT students and staff, and who now benefits from campaign contributions from her conservative network.

And believe it or not, they are the same candidate: astrophysicist and neighborhood activist Loraine Lundquist.

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In the world of independent expenditures, where dirty politics and disinformation are the rule, Lundquist evidently can be both a right-winger and a lefty socialist.

Just as galling, the polar-opposite portrayals of Lundquist come from the same group: Working Californians, the political arm of the union that represents Los Angeles Department of Water and Power employees.

Please, voters, don’t be fooled by such political chicanery.

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The DWP union has been trying to tank Lundquist’s candidacy since last year, when she ran for the 12th District seat in a special election. The union poured money into misleading mailers, including the one portraying her as the socialist extremist.

It’s all part of a campaign by the union to smear politicians, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, who have supported replacing three natural gas power plants in the city with renewable energy sources in an effort to slow global climate change and meet the state’s aggressive clean energy mandates. The plants employ 400 DWP workers, but the mayor has insisted no employees will lose their jobs.

The misleading mailers apparently worked during the special election in August. Lundquist lost to John Lee, a longtime City Hall staffer and former chief of staff to Councilman Mitch Englander, who resigned the seat in 2018 to become a lobbyist.

Now Lee and Lundquist are facing off again in a race to represent the North Valley district for a full four-year term. The Times has endorsed Lundquist.

This time the election will coincide with the Democratic primary, and it’s expected to draw a much larger turnout and a more liberal-leaning electorate. That explains why the new mailer from the DWP union is attempting to brand Lundquist as a secret Republican. The union representing Los Angeles Police officers also helped pay for the attack ad.

The irony, of course, is that until recently Lee was a registered Republican. After the election last summer, he changed his voter registration to “No Party Preference.” Not that it really matters. City Council seats are nonpartisan.

Now Lee himself is getting into smear campaigning. He sent out a mailer warning voters that Lundquist is “hiding her extremist background.” Sound familiar? This mailer accuses Lundquist of being an anti-gay, “anti-vaxxer” because she graduated from and then taught at a private college in Illinois that describes itself as a “Christian Science community of practice.”

The college had “an unwritten agreement among admissions and the administration” against admitting or employing openly gay, lesbian or bisexual students, faculty and staff, according to Times reporter Emily Alpert Reyes. Lundquist told The Times that she openly opposed those policies as both a student and a professor and had co-founded a student group that challenged them. In fact, the Stonewall Democratic Club, an LGBT political group, looked into Lundquist’s involvement with the college and ultimately endorsed her after determining that she had been an advocate for LGBT rights there.

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There’s nothing new about ugly, dishonest ads. Smears and misinformation abound in election season — especially when independent expenditure groups get involved. These groups can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to support their candidates, but they aren’t allowed to coordinate with the candidates or their campaigns. That arms-length relationship with the actual candidates seems to encourage and embolden these groups to go dirty.

It’s up to you, the voters, to be savvy and skeptical. Better yet, just toss the mailers in the recycling bin.


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