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Sunday, Jun 4, 2023

Valley Picture Uncertain After Villaraigosa’s Entrance

Valley Picture Uncertain After Villaraigosa’s Entrance By BRAD SMITH Staff Reporter Almost four years after he was defeated by James Hahn in the Los Angeles city mayor’s race, Antonio Villaraigosa (photo) is back, bringing the number of serious contenders in the March primary to five. Villaraigosa, who represents northeast Los Angeles on the City Council, announced weeks after the other challengers, former Los Angeles police chief and Councilman Bernard Parks and two veteran San Fernando Valley Democratic lawmakers, State Sen. Richard Alarcon and former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg. Hahn has already received $1.9 million in campaign donations, while Hertzberg has raised almost $800,000; Villaraigosa, who lost to Hahn by eight percent of the vote in 2001, has said he can compete despite the late start. “I believe this is America’s next great city and we need more than mediocre leadership,” Villaraigosa said when announcing his candidacy earlier this month. “I think I have the vision that Los Angeles needs (and) I will raise what I need.” Villaraigosa, who declined to be interviewed for this story, was the top vote-getter in the 2001 primary. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote this March, the two top candidates will face each other in a run-off on the May 2005 election ballot. “There is going to be a run-off; the question is who will be in that runoff?” said Sherry Bebitch-Jeffe, a University of Southern California political scholar. “If indeed (Hahn) suffers real attrition of the coalition that elected him in 2001, he’ll have to look elsewhere it’s not a done deal that it will be Hahn vs. someone in May. It could be two of the challengers.” Valley support uncertain In that case, support from San Fernando Valley voters and the Valley’s influential business community may be up for grabs, observers said. “What Antonio’s entrance does is muddy the waters even more, and makes it even more volatile,” Bebitch-Jeffe said. “My guess is he will get a lion’s share of the Latino vote, so the big question is where else does he go for support?” Hahn, whose father was legendary Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, was elected in 2001with strong support from voters in South Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. The strength of that alliance may have eroded, however, given Hahn’s dismissal of former Chief Parks (and Parks’ subsequent election to the council) and Hahn’s opposition to the secession of the San Fernando Valley from the city in 2002. “I think the question is can Jim Hahn keep together the coalition he had in 2001, and the answer to that is not clear,” Bebitch-Jeffe said. “Parks is likely to dig deep in Hahn’s constituency in South Los Angeles, and there were many Valley types who were angry with Hahn because he led the anti-secession campaign.” Alarcon has represented the east Valley on the City Council or in the Legislature since 1993, while Hertzberg served in the Assembly from 1996 to 2002 and was a board member of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association. Alarcon, whose potential for a strong base among Latino voters is in question because of Villaraigosa’s decision, said the move simply adds to Hahn’s problems. “The mayor is vulnerable,” Alarcon said. “Each candidate is going to present their own strengths and particular constituency and then do their best citywide, but the person who has the most to be worried about is Mayor Hahn.” Hahn’s support mixed Hahn’s level of support in the Valley appears mixed; many business leaders, including Galpin Ford owner Bert Boeckmann, have endorsed his re-election, but Republican Assemblyman Keith Richman, whose district includes much of the northwest Valley, has raised funds for Hertzberg. “Hertzberg is very popular in the Valley,” Boeckmann said. “I’m supporting the mayor, but there are a number of people who are supporting Hertzberg.” If the mayor’s base splinters, Villaraigosa could be the one to end up facing off against Hertzberg. If so, Villaraigosa’s reputation as a tenacious campaigner and his links to Democrats nationally could take him over the top, observers said. Villaraigosa is one of a dozen national co-chairs of the Kerry-Edwards presidential campaign and was involved all week long at the Democratic Convention in Boston. Hertzberg, Hahn, and Parks also attended the event, but Villaraigosa was much more active, said Bebitch-Jeffe, who was in Boston as a commentator. “Antonio was there and he never stopped he has such energy,” she said. “I watched both his speech and Hahn’s, and Jimmy Hahn was Jimmy Hahn; Villaraigosa’s delivery was so much more higher wattage.”

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