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Joe Biden to L.A. donors: ‘It is a marathon and we have a long way to go’

Joe Biden, capping off his two-day visit to Los Angeles, told donors on Thursday that he was not getting too comfortable with his strong polling numbers.

“I know all that polling stuff looks good but it is a marathon and we have a long way to go.” Biden told about 70 people at a breakfast fundraiser at the Jonathan Club, a private downtown social club. “There’s a lot of people who are qualified and decent and running. And I think it’s one heck of a field, although I never anticipated there’d be 300 people running.”

His audience laughed at the exaggeration, although the current crop of more than 20 Democrats running is a historically large field.

The morning gathering, hosted by trial lawyer Tom Girardi and his wife Erika, a star of the reality show “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” was the third fundraiser the former vice president held in Los Angeles during his first visit to the city as a presidential candidate.

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Between events in Los Angeles’ swankiest neighborhoods Wednesday to collect campaign checks, Biden and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti stopped for a late afternoon snack at King Taco No. 10 in Pico-Union.

Fielding a crush of selfie requests, Biden, wearing a blue blazer and no tie, and Garcetti, in a dress shirt with a tie but no jacket, joined two diners for lunch, chatting about California-specific concerns such as homelessness.

Biden pledged to run a positive campaign, promising to “not speak ill of any of the Democratic candidates,” and predicted the large field of candidates will be “winnowed out pretty quickly.”

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Garcetti has been courted by a number of presidential hopefuls as they swing through Los Angeles. He toured a water treatment plant with New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker last month and will appear with Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., at a labor event Thursday morning. So far, Garcetti said, he hasn’t chosen whom he’ll endorse.

“Like most folks, I’m looking and listening,” Garcetti said. “I’m not personally shopping; I’m standing up for the people of Los Angeles.”

Still, the two men’s affinity for each other was evident, with Biden slinging his arm over Garcetti’s shoulder as they ordered.

The fare for Biden’s first fundraiser Wednesday in Hancock Park was a bit different — ahi tuna ceviche and avocado, langoustine tail and caviar.

In a 20-minute speech to about 250 donors, Biden said that he was running to “restore the backbone of this country” and that while some criticize him for being “Old Joe,” he has the experience to unite the nation.

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The event drew about a dozen protesters from the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which is in a dispute with Kaiser Permanente over resources for mental health care. The union members said they wanted Biden to raise their concerns with the event’s host, Dr. Cynthia Telles, a Kaiser board member.

Stacey Cohen, 50, a licensed clinical therapist who works at Kaiser’s Los Angeles Medical Center, said she was “very surprised” that her union had not heard from Biden or his campaign about their concerns.

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“He’s stated … that he’s a union man and that he supports unions. He’s talked about mental health parity and how important it is,” Cohen said. “And yet he’s refusing to meet with us who are the direct providers.”

John Nelson, a spokesman for Kaiser Permanente, said that the demonstration was a “publicity stunt” and that the company has been in active bargaining with the union for nearly a year.

Biden did not interact with the protesters or address the demonstration in his remarks.

His second fundraiser Wednesday tapped into Hollywood’s deep pockets. The evening event was held at the Brentwood home of James Costos, a former HBO executive, and his husband, Michael Smith. Other co-hosts included film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg and former Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt.

Like the daytime fundraiser, the event drew protests from a labor group. This time it was about 20 University of California workers who were protesting co-host Richard Blum, a UC regent.


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