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Tuesday, Aug 16, 2022
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Hertzberg Factor Being Watched in Mayor’s Race

On January 19, all four of James Hahn’s challengers met to debate in front of the Sherman Oaks Homeowner’s Association. About 45 minutes into things, each candidate got the chance to ask a question of one of his fellow candidates. They all did, but the questions lacked the invective that has colored the mayoral race so far. Of course they did, the usual target was absent. In the first months of this campaign James Hahn has faced attacks on his administration when it comes to potholes, police officers or public relations scandals. When Bob Hertzberg had the chance to ask another debater a question, he looked disappointed. “I wanted to ask Jim Hahn a question,” he laughed ruefully. The challenge when running against an incumbent is two-fold, says Cal State Fullerton Political Science Professor Raphael Sonenshein. You have to unseat the mayor, and you’ve got to be the person to unseat the mayor. So far, polls show Mayor Hahn as vulnerable, it seems almost impossible for him to take over 50 percent of the votes cast on March 8, which means he’s looking at a runoff election in May. A majority of voters may be ready to vote against the mayor, but they’re not sure who they’re voting for yet. But in the next few weeks of mayoral campaigning, Sonenshein is watching Bob Hertzberg very closely. “Either Hertzberg will move up or he won’t, that’s the main thing that’s going to happen between now and the primary,” Sonenshein says. Come February, each candidate will start rolling out television commercials and mailers, and polls will start to change. Polls in early January, which relied almost exclusively on internal data from the campaigns, showed Mayor Hahn in the lead with 25 to 30 percent of voters supporting him, followed by council members Bernard Parks and Antonio Villaraigosa with around 20 percent of voters supporting each of them. Hertzberg and State Senator Richard Alarcon were shown to be hovering around 10 percent voter support. In the battle of the budgets, Hertzberg is holding his own. He has $1.5 million in his campaign coffers, and will be able to afford a much more extensive advertising blitz than Parks, whose own campaign has seen staffers come and go and is said to be faltering as the primary creeps closer. If he does make an effective push beyond his base of Valley supporters, Hertzberg will take votes from the two strongest candidates Hahn and Villaraigosa who competed in what was essentially a two-person race in 2001. “He’s got a solid base that may well assure a spot in the runoff,” said Sonenshein. “If Hertzberg gains votes, they will probably come out of both Hahn and Villaraigosa. He’d pull Westside Jewish votes form Villaraigosa, and Valley votes from Hahn, and you’d have three people bunched together in the primaries. Parks-Alarcon factor Sonenshein added that Parks and Alarcon, while unlikely to end up in a runoff election, could also take votes from Hahn in South Los Angeles and the Northeast Valley, respectively. James Hahn readily points out that despite Hertzberg’s Valley allies, and the fact that he represented the area for six years in the California Assembly, Hahn’s carried the Valley in every election he’s ever run in. But it remains to be seen how much rancor Valley voters carry from the failed secession movement, and how much the business community believes the mayor cares about their problems. It’s clear that the Hahn campaign is taking Hertzberg seriously, no matter what he says about his chances. The candidates’ camps have been firing letters back and forth on issues ranging from traffic congestion to the hiring of new police officers. All of Hahn’s major challengers have taken the opportunity to send slightly venomous letters dealing with a wide range of issues, but Hahn has taken particular note of Hertzberg’s claims. After releasing his 10-point plan for commuters, Hertzberg received a letter from the Hahn camp charging him with diverting hundreds of millions of dollars from transportation improvements to fill holes in the state budget. Last Tuesday, Hertzberg announced a plan to hire 3,000 new police officers without raising taxes in the city, and once again Hahn’s campaign was back later that morning with claims that Hertzberg diverted money from L.A., and voted to raise sales taxes, pushing Los Angeles to its current 8.25 percent rate. Even if Hertzberg does have potential moving into February, Sonenshein said that with so many serious contenders protecting one’s base of support while trying to break into new voter blocs, the race ends up turning into a “multidimensional game of chess.” Hertzberg’s base is the Valley, particularly the business community, but he’s been making efforts to extend his appeal with his Commuter’s Bill of Rights and a controversial plan to break up the Los Angeles Unified School District. Using the Internet John Shallman, a Sherman Oaks strategist working for Hertzberg’s campaign, says that an early Internet presence is also likely to give Hertzberg an advantage in his attempts to pry into voters’ brains. “The people who are really paying close attention to politics and this race especially are doing so on the Internet,” Shallman said. “We’ve had almost 2.5 million hits on the site, which is a remarkable thing for a local political campaign.” Hertzberg’s Web site was one of the first up and running during the mayoral campaign. It includes news links, background information and a Web log section that provides for multi-directional conversation between Hertzberg, his staff and voters. Shallman that within 24 hours of Hertzberg’s announced plan to break up LAUSD, more than 3,000 people signed on the Web site to support him. Shallman said that the campaign will be working to recruit “hundreds” of those pledged supporters into canvassers going door to door to urge their neighbors to vote for Hertzberg and forwarding e-mails. Shallman also sees an advantage for Hertzberg when he reads the polls. “We look at it this way, as really a three-person race with Hahn and Villaraigosa,” he says. “Our polls and virtually every poll show that a vast majority is looking for someone new. . . the electorate is looking for a change and I think Bob will fit that bill.” Reporter Jonathan D. Colburn can be reached at (818) 316-3124 or by e-mail at jdcolburn@sfvbj.com.

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