Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Race for CD 2

Here is a partial list of the players who might be motivated to run for the open Los Angeles City Council seat left vacant by Council Member Wendy Gruel. Her victory in the March 3rd election awarded her the new position of City Controller. The results of the election produced a wild scramble amongst interested parties for the newly-vacant job in the 2nd. One of the immediate assumptions was that well-respected politician Laura Chick would step in and take the job, but, aware of the fact that she had already served two terms in City Council from another district, Chick felt it was not the right place for her, and surprisingly declined a run at the spot. Some of the candidates can clearly be accused of being "carpetbaggers" (i.e. they don't live in the district) and I'm sure that subject will come up in discussions during the election campaign. Some of the potential candidates can  actually be described as "already in"... and we will get to a discussion of that next... 

  • Joan Pelico, Deputy for the Councilman Jack Weiss. 
  • Tamar Galatzan, LAUSD Board Member and Prosecutor for the Van Nuys LAPD Division
  • Ben Neumann, current President, Studio City Neighborhood Council
  • Kenny Gerston, former President of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council
  • Cindy Montanez, Former Assemblywoman, former Mayor of City of San Fernando
  • David "Zuma Dogg" Saltsburg, Media personality, blogger, and City Hall political activist
  • Frank Sheftel, Candy Factory owner, Marijuana Collective operator, and community activist
  • Jozef Essavi, former candidate for L.A. Community College Board of Trustees
  • Paul Krekorian, California State Assemblyman, 43rd District
  • Chris Essel, former exec. Paramount Pictures, Airport Commission appointee

  • Many of the potential candidates are awaiting a decision by State Assemblyman Paul Krekorian, who casts a large enough shadow over the race that his presence in it would discourage many others from running. Krekorian has a tough decision to make, having himself  just been re-elected to the State Assembly in November 2008. His decision to immediately depart that position and to "carpetbag" over from Burbank/Glendale over into the Eastern San Fernando Valley would not be met with joy by many of the voters who elected him in November. In fact, it is likely his actions would burn bridges and create a large number of hostile voters who might seek his recall regardless of the outcome in the City Council race. If he decides to seek the Council seat, many would-be candidates will be discouraged from seeking the position. If he opts out, the field will probably get more crowded. However, it seems more likely than not that Krekorian will seek the seat. The higher salary and the pay-to-play opportunities of the Los Angeles City Council are usually too much for politicians to resist. There are rumors that Krekorian has already rented an apartment in CD 2 in order to be able to claim residency.

    Aside from Krekorian, Chris Essel appears to be the leading candidate out of the gate, due to her large personal fortune after having been an executive at Paramount Pictures. However, Essel comes with some serious and unattractive baggage... having been appointed to the Airport Commission by none other than questionable City leader Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Joan Pelico was a member of "Team Weiss", which was left a pile of smoldering wreckage after the City Attorney race.  Pelico and Tamar Galatzan are lower level politicos who owe large debts to Mayor Villaraigosa. Galatzan, in particular, is heavily indebted to Villaraigosa. It is believed that Villaraigosa spent between 1 and 2 million dollars to get her elected to the LAUSD Board. If the Mayor pulls them aside and lets them know that Chris Essel is his preferred candidate, they will probably bow out of the race in deference to him.

    Frank Sheftel, a business owner and community activist, is painting himself as the only "local boy" in the race,citing his decades-long presence in the San Fernando Valley. He acknowledges than Essavi and Essel are both probably going to be candidates in the election, but he believes that Neumann and Gerston probably won't run. Montanez would be yet another carpetbagger in the race, having served as Mayor of San Fernando and in the State Assembly for areas not covered by CD 2.

    One interesting possibility would be media personality David "Zuma Dogg" Saltsburg,  who is rumored to be mulling the option of running for the CD 2 seat.  Saltsburg did surprisingly well in the 2009 Mayoral election, taking fourth place and pulling in over 9,000 votes. 

    Saltsburg does not live in CD 2 (as far as I know) yet he may not be able to resist the temptation to be in the focus of the glaring spotlight of publicity that will follow this campaign . Saltsburg seems to take delight in derailing the devious plans of crooked politicians, and to be able to disrupt the coronation of Chris Essel by Antonio Villaraigosa may be just the type of project that he would find irresistible.

    The deadline for residency has passed, so the carpetbaggers will have to have already made their  moves. Now the question is to see who files and who can obtain the petition signatures in the rather brief three week window that the City Clerks office is granting. Stay tuned for more details as the race heats up.