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Here’s some new candidate facts, or not

AS IF YOU ASKED

In a weekend column, I mentioned that I sensed tension developing in

the camps of some of the candidates for council who survived the

primary election. Events in the 72 hours since lead me to declare

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that our “Election Hostilities Alert” status has now reached level

orange.

In one of the developments, Mayor David Laurell withdrew his

endorsement Saturday for Brian Malone, the primary’s fourth-place

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finisher. Laurell has said Councilman Dave Golonski, who came out to

endorse Malone just two weeks ago, has also withdrawn his

endorsement. But Golonski told me he hasn’t made a decision to do

that. Golonski said he’s still weighing changes he might make in his

endorsements in light of the primary results, if any.

Let’s acknowledge what the parties are saying publicly on all

this. But we won’t waste much time on it, because numerous reliable

sources assure me it’s all a bunch of hooey. First, Laurell’s public

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statement explained, “I have weighed Brian’s ideas, opinions,

experience and knowledge of issues and can no longer endorse his

candidacy for a seat on the on the City Council.” Presumably as some

sort of face-saving gesture toward Malone, Laurell has also said he

withdrew his endorsement because he knew Malone had to devote time

and attention to a close friend who was ill.

Malone told me he still enjoys “massive support from Realtors and

others in Burbank,” and that he will “just move forward.” The

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real-estate agent still automatically refers to Laurell only as “my

mayor,” and insists he has “no bad feelings toward my mayor.”

Malone says his friend’s illness isn’t serious, but that “My

mayor, the man who sat down and invited me to run in this election,

is entitled to make a different decision for personal political

reasons.” Malone added, “I just don’t know what they are.”

Malone loaned $10,000 to his own campaign, and the cases of

literature produced with that cash prominently boast of Laurell’s

endorsement. And Malone says he has no hard feelings? In his shoes,

I’d be trying to bang “my mayor’s” head on the asphalt. But I’m not

running for office, and so can get away with flip remarks.

There’s another explanation for Laurell’s move, one tied to

Malone’s performance in a candidates’ forum hosted by the Chamber of

Commerce on Saturday, a program being replayed via City Hall’s cable

channel every day until the election. Many sources say Laurell and

Golonski were appalled by Malone’s performance. I’ve heard many times

that nervous supporters have waited weeks for Malone to start doing

his homework, and to grasp relevant facts and figures. But after

Saturday’s forum, they’ve concluded he not only failed to improve,

he’s worse.

One of Malone’s answers was actually gibberish, a series of buzz

words and sentences strung together and creating the appearance of an

answer. He proved a lack of familiarity with some prominent projects,

and in a couple instances verbally relocated entire neighborhoods.

Then Malone boasted of having discussed the future of city utility

rates with a particular department head, apparently unaware the

staffer named isn’t the one who oversees city utilities.

But I’ve seen worse forum presentations, and supporters of those

candidates simply defended the debacles as nothing more than the

result of nervousness. And one other little tidbit creates doubt that

Malone’s handling of the forum inspired Laurell’s decision. Malone

told me Laurell asked him to “be a good soldier,” withdraw from the

race and throw his support to another candidate. Malone said the

mayor made that request BEFORE the forum.

Malone won’t speculate on Laurell’s motives, but the purpose of a

pre-forum request is obvious, and it’s where most of the other

candidates get dragged into all of this. First, though, understand

that the appointed incumbent councilman, Jef Vander Borght, is the

one candidate escaping this fray. Indeed, as has been the case since

the lineup became official months back, Vander Borght has been the

one candidate a diverse array of groups and players have agreed to

support.

Restaurant owner Gary Bric finished a distant second in the

primary, 2,000 votes behind Vander Borght. After that, less than 800

votes separate Bric’s second place and Malone’s fourth. Todd Campbell

landed in the middle with third place.

Early on in the campaign, Bric won a nod from former Mayor Mary

Lou Howard, an endorsement traditionally followed by support from

some city employee groups and other prominent pals of Howard. But

there’s also been an undercurrent of nervousness about Bric. In

short, several community leaders privately say they’re sure Bric is

far out of his depth in City Hall. Even one of Bric’s endorsers told

me, “I actually hope he loses, because if he wins he’ll eventually

embarrass me.” But the nervousness doesn’t outweigh the perceived

risks of going with Campbell or Malone.

Concerns about Bric were heightened by literature he put out with

the headline “Civic and Charitable Involvement,” followed by an

amazing list of 23 local events and organizations. Representatives

for several told me they’re mystified as to how Bric could claim any

association to them. Others were astounded he used the donation of a

restaurant gift certificate long ago, or some similar involvement, to

manufacture a record of community service.

Those who doubted Bric before are now working actively to block

him. And common sense dictates that trying to move Campbell up one

notch will be easier than moving Malone up two. And so a circle of

support abandons Malone and shifts to Campbell.

Alas, and indicative of problems plaguing this year’s candidate

field since day one, some observers are every bit as worried about

Campbell. He keeps saying he’s a lifelong resident, glossing over the

fact he moved here less than a year ago after a decade on the

Westside and in Washington, D.C.

Campbell is also vexed by a wave of faxes and e-mails posted

throughout the city, messages declaring that Campbell is lying about

his background. Campbell confirmed one report in the messages, that

he was arrested in 1996 for public drunkenness over an episode at a

bar. But he vehemently denied other claims in the message. He told me

he suspects the pieces are being sent by a cousin who “has no

interest in or knowledge of the election.

“What’s really at issue is the settlement of my grandfather’s

estate,” Campbell said. He says the division of assets has created

hostile divisions in his family.

So, the mayor withdrew an endorsement because of concern tied to

an illness, and/or because of a candidate’s failure to do homework,

and/or in an attempt to help another candidate. Golonski withdrew his

endorsement, but he didn’t. Others may or may not do the same,

whatever that is. One candidate has invented a record of intense

community service for a decade he was actually virtually invisible,

and another didn’t live here through that decade, but he’s been here

his whole life.

As one frustrated community leader put it, “Can’t I just vote for

Jef Vander Borght twice?” The answer is, “No, you can’t.”

* WILL ROGERS’ column appears in every edition of the Leader. He

can be reached 24 hours a day at 637-3200, voice mail ext. 906, or by

e-mail at will.rogers@latimes.com or willrogersemail@earthlink.net.


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