By HOWARD FINE Staff Reporter The race to fill the L.A. City Council seat once held by state Sen. Richard Alarcon has become the only hotly contested match in the Valley for the April 13 citywide election. The race pits Corinne Sanchez, a community leader with longstanding ties to the Valley’s political leadership, against Alex Padilla, an energetic young upstart with backing from Mayor Richard Riordan and local unions. The Seventh Council District, situated at the north end of the San Fernando Valley, includes the communities of Pacoima, Van Nuys and Lakeview Terrace. Alarcon represented the district until he won a bitterly contested election to the state Senate last year, defeating former state Assemblyman Richard Katz. The district, which is half Latino, has had a vacant council seat since last summer. Sanchez and Padilla are leading a pack of eight candidates seeking to replace Alarcon. Through the end of March, Sanchez held a slight fund-raising lead over Padilla, having raised $200,300 to Padilla’s $186,525. Only one other candidate has raised enough to qualify for city matching funds, former San Fernando Mayor Raul Godinez, with $52,000. With Sanchez and Padilla running neck-and-neck in terms of fund raising and endorsements, the likelihood is high that neither will win an outright majority and thus both are likely to end up in a runoff contest on June 8, sharing the ballot with the charter reform measure. Sanchez has picked up endorsements from such key political figures as Alarcon, council members Laura Chick and Mike Feuer, and four of the five county supervisors, including Zev Yaroslavsky and Gloria Molina. Padilla received an endorsement from Mayor Riordan, the county labor federation, and his current boss, state Assemblyman Tony Cardenas. “Sanchez has been around longer and has picked up support from more seasoned elected officials, but Padilla is very energetic, well organized and has the support of the unions,” said local political consultant Richard Lichtenstein. “With so few major philosophical differences between the two, it’s going to come down to who can get out the vote best.” Sanchez, 52, has made an issue of Padilla’s youth he turned 26 last month. She said he has too little experience and will be forced to turn to consultants to make decisions as a council member. Padilla, on the other hand, says his roots are in the district and says Sanchez is a carpetbagger, having just moved into the district last fall to run for this office. Both candidates say they want to improve the business climate in the Valley, but have outlined different approaches. Sanchez said she wants to expand tax incentives and streamline further the project approval process. She also said she wants more frequent city services for some of the district’s business corridors. Sanchez supporter Mel Williams, who owns the Williams Optima furniture store in Pacoima, said he has known Sanchez for almost a decade. “Businesses are looking for more activity and streets that are safe,” Williams said. “With her work on the Van Nuys Corridor Committee, Sanchez has demonstrated her commitment to the businesses in the area.” Padilla said he wants to make sure businesses have better access to funds going to enterprise zones, empowerment zones and other incentive districts. He said he also wants to introduce more after-school programs with a focus on job training. Ben Reznick, an attorney with the Century City law firm of Jeffer, Mangles, Butler and Marmaro, said he supports Padilla because of his work on the city’s Building and Safety Commission. “He has a sense of balance on business issues, which was very evident on the Building and Safety Commission. He also brings a practical perspective to very complicated issues.” Three of the council’s longest-serving members have filed for reelection, but none face serious challenges. The veterans running for reelection are Hal Bernson, in the Northwest Valley’s 12th District; Joel Wachs in the east Valley’s Second District; and Councilman John Ferraro, whose Fourth District extends from Hancock Park into North Hollywood.