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Wednesday, Oct 4, 2023


Christopher Woodard Staff Reporter L.A. City Councilman Richard Alarcon and former Assemblyman Richard Katz took in $1.3 million collectively in the race for the the 20th District Senate seat, but it was Alarcon who more effectively cashed in with San Fernando Valley businesses. While both candidates received the bulk of their money from sources outside the Valley district, including developers and powerful political action committees, Alarcon raised three times as much cash from businesses, raking in $97,670 compared to $28,690 garnered by Katz. Galpin Motors Inc. owner Bert Boeckmann believes the numbers are indicative of the councilman’s support in the business community, and offer a sign that Alarcon may be perceived as the more pro-business of the two. “I’ve just been very impressed with the way he handles things,” said Boeckmann, who serves on the Los Angeles Police Commission and donated $1,000 to Alarcon’s campaign. “He’s a type of person who likes to get things done. He does it very quietly, but it usually comes to some sort of fruition, and he doesn’t give up very easily.” Katz dismissed the disparity in donations, saying the numbers show only that Alarcon used his City Hall connection to fill his campaign coffers. “I think the numbers mean a lot of people in the Valley depend on City Hall for their livelihoods,” Katz said. “Most of the businesses that contributed need permits or licenses from the City Council. I think that’s the two-by-four he held over their heads.” The Democratic primary for the 20th District has been hotly contested and the results are not expected to be certified until the end of this month. Even then, with the race so close, the losing candidate is expected to demand a recount. Katz, who represented the same Northeast Valley area for 16 years as an assemblyman until being forced out of office in 1996 by term limits, appeared on his way to victory on election night, only to have fellow Democrat Alarcon eke out a 791-vote advantage the next morning as ballots from his council district trickled in. As election officials processed uncounted absentee and provisional ballots in subsequent days, Katz narrowed to a couple dozen votes and later a handful of votes, but Alarcon maintained a narrow lead. Still, it could take weeks to determine a winner if the loser demands a recount, as most political observers expect. Katz and Alarcon are vying to replace Sen. Herschel Rosenthal, a Van Nuys Democrat leaving office because of term limits. The 20th Senate District, which takes in a wide swath of the east Valley from Sylmar to Studio City and juts west to Canoga Park, is heavily Democratic, and the winner is expected to win the November general election. In the war for campaign dollars, Alarcon took in $680,420 to Katz’s $589,291, according to campaign finance reports. Katz began the race $130,000 ahead of Alarcon by carrying over unspent funds from an earlier campaign. But Alarcon outpaced his opponent during each of two reporting periods this year and gained the lead in the last days of the race when a political action committee controlled by Sen. Richard Polanco, D-Los Angeles, pumped $181,527 into the Alarcon campaign. Alarcon used the money to blitz the district’s growing Latino community with flyers asking for support while mobilizing hundreds of volunteers to get Latino voters to the polls. Alarcon came out the winner in the race for Valley dollars based on a tally of contributions that came in this year from businesses, top executives and those listing themselves as self-employed with addresses in the Valley. Among contributors were various executives of the Voit Cos., who gave $2,7,50 collectively including $1,000 from company President Robert Voit. The company, in conjunction with Selleck Development Group Inc., is developing a $75 million, 70-acre industrial and retail center at the former General Motors plant on Van Nuys Boulevard. Alarcon received $12,500 from Thomas H. Fry, president of Sun Valley-based Crown Disposal Co. Inc.; $6,000 from Stanley Hirsh, a Studio City resident and owner of the Mercantile Center; $5,000 from Sylmar-based Tutor-Saliba Corp., a contractor on Metropolitan Transportation Authority subway projects; $5,000 from Alfred Villalobos, a Woodland Hills investment banker; and $2,350 from Rickey Gelb of Encino-based Gelb Enterprises, a property management company. Within the Valley, Katz received $5,000 from the Walt Disney Co.; $1,500 from 20th Century Insurance Co. (which gave an equal amount to Alarcon); $1,000 from David Fleming, a Studio City attorney and chair of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley; and a wide assortment of smaller contributions in the $100 to $250 range from dentists, doctors, optometrists and lawyers. Outside the Valley, Alarcon received a $10,000 contribution from both Santa Monica-based developer Wilshire Builders Inc. and Dean Nichols, manager of Virginia-based Chesapeake Leasing Inc. The Southern California District Council of Carpenters PAC gave $20,000. The California State Council of Laborers gave $5,000, as did City of Industry-based Majestic Realty Co., which hedged its bet by giving an equal amount to Katz. Majestic owner Ed Roski Jr. is spearheading development of the Staples Center arena now under construction in downtown Los Angeles. Katz also received $10,000 from former Eagles band member Don Henley; $10,000 from former legislative colleague Sen. Patrick Johnston, D-Stockton; tens of thousands of additional dollars from PACs representing teachers, classified school employees and truckers; and $250 from Playboy Enterprises Inc. Alarcon said the tally, which excludes PACs that happen to be in the Valley, is evidence of his support in the business community. In particular, Alarcon believes his involvement in efforts to revitalize his Northeast district specifically by helping to bring Wal-Mart to the Panorama City Mall, working to create an economic empowerment zone in Pacoima and assisting in efforts to redevelop the old General Motors plant in Van Nuys struck a chord with business leaders. “It’s a function of getting things done,” he said. “I think it’s clear we’ve worked very hard to improve the business opportunities in the Northeast Valley.” Katz countered that he has broad-based support from business leaders, including Fleming of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley and Walt Mosher, president of San Fernando-based Precision Dynamics Corp., which contributed $500. Some of the PACs that gave Katz money might not be based in the Valley, but many of their members (including members of the California Trucking Association, which gave him $10,000) live there, he said. “My contributor base is broad based,” he said. “My average contribution was $480, his (Alarcon’s) was $800. Mine includes business leaders, labor leaders. It’s across the board.” Katz noted that Alarcon received several thousand dollars from taxi-cab companies, including $5,000 from Yellow Cab Co. of northern Orange County and $2,500 from Los Angeles Checker Cab Co. Katz accused Alarcon of introducing a City Council motion that would have allowed some taxi cabs to operate on city streets without insurance. “With all his contributions from the taxi-cab industry, you draw your own conclusions,” said Katz. Alarcon said the taxi issue had to do with an internal dispute within Bell Cab Co. that threatened to force some taxis off the road. The final motion approved by the council did require taxi operators to show proof of insurance, he said. Alarcon noted that both candidates received contributions from businesses, but that doesn’t mean they provided favors to those companies. “How does that explain his (Katz’s) contribution from Playboy? I think they just need to deal with it,” Alarcon said. Allan Hoffenblum, an L.A. political consultant, said Katz carries a lot of baggage, having served 16 years in a liberal state Assembly. “Rightly or wrongly, he does have a reputation of being somewhat anti-business,” Hoffenblum said. “It goes back to being Democratic minority leader and a close ally of (then-Assembly Speaker) Willie Brown.” Fleming disagreed. He said Alarcon’s fund-raising success has more to do with the fact that Katz doesn’t enjoy the fund-raising clout connected with being an incumbent elected official. “He didn’t come from a base in which he could do immediate things for the business community, whereas Alarcon obviously can,” said Fleming. Robert Voit agreed with Fleming that Alarcon’s job offers a “certain prominence” that isn’t enjoyed by Katz. Voit said he considers both Katz and Alarcon to be pro business, but in working with Alarcon on the GM project he appreciated the councilman’s help in expediting the approval process. “Alarcon is very supporting of whatever it takes to create jobs in his district,” Voit said. Voit saw nothing untoward in supporting a candidate whom he views as helping his company in cutting through City Hall’s red tape. “We’re very involved in the San Fernando Valley and the city of L.A., he said. “For years we’ve supported candidates acting in the best interest of the city, candidates who are pro business, pro job and pro growth.”

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