Sunday, August 23, 2009

CD 2 Race : The Breakdown

We are only a month away from a critical election here in Los Angeles that few people are paying attention to. The special election to replace new City Controller Wendy Gruel in her former position on the Los Angeles City Council has attracted carpetbagging politicians like flies. Council District 2 voters...perhaps a very small number of them... will decide who will hold this seat for the next two...and maybe even 10 or more years...what with the way incumbents here in Los Angeles are rarely ever challenged or threatened by electoral defeat.

There are 10 candidates for CD 2 voters to choose from.

The candidates, as listed in ballot order, with ballot designations....

(Interesting how Tamar doesn't list the LAUSD position she was elected to - and is subsequently abandoning - for her attempt at the City Council position.)

Tamar seems to be doing reasonably well in this campaign, assuming she can withstand the heat from her latest mailing controversy. She has raised the third highest amount of money and has received some endorsements from some important political figures. Tamar is repeatedly referred to as one of the "Big 3" by forum and debate moderators. Once viewed as a Villaraigosa puppet, who relied on his fundraising and support to be elected to her LAUSD position, it is now believed by many that she has had a falling out with the Mayor and that the Mayor is actually working against her in this election by running Chris Essel as his preferred candidate.

Tamar appears to be attracting supporters who are turned off by Paul Krekorian and Chris Essel. This has drawn the attention of some of the other candidates in the crowded field, and as such, Tamar has been been very harshly criticized by other candidates. To her credit, she seems to be quite tough...standing up to these blistering attacks without backing down.

THE LINE: Tamar is likely to finish in the top three, but it is unclear if she has enough support to defeat Krekorian or some of the other candidates -- who have closer ties to the community, and are seen in a far more favorable light than Galatzan, who is trying to leave a job she was elected by the voters to complete. She is also somewhat tainted by her former relationship with Villaraigosa, who is wildly unpopular right now.

I have to admit to being a little biased towards Joe Essavi, who I consider a friend. He is a good Republican...and as far as I am concerned, he is the only Conservative in this election. As such, he is one of the few who could really make a difference. The voters in CD 2 could really use a good guy like Joe Essavi. He is the only candidate who has promised to protect Proposition 13.

THE LINE : Joe has a certain amount of name recognition from having run for office in other election cycles. He has a certain crowd of supporters from the Neighborhood Council community and I have no doubt he will collect thousands of votes. However, I'm not sure if it will be enough to get him into the runoff election. He needs to raise and spend more money to break out of the pack of candidates in the middle.

Christine Essel is the former Paramount Pictures movie executive who has probably been the subject of the most scathing and incendiary attacks of all the candidates. There are several reasons for this. The most important one is that Chris Essel does not live in CD 2 and everyone knows that. It is not even the slightest of secrets ....especially not to Mayor Sam readers. However, we live in a free country, and there are no laws against Chris Essel claiming to live in some ratty little apartment in the Valley rather than her multi-million dollar mansion in Sunset/Doheny Estates. (Who, in their right mind, wouldn't trade those digs?)

One of the other odd curiosities about Essels campaign remains a puzzling enigma. As a multi-millionaire movie executive --doesn't she have anything better to do with her time than blow a quarter million dollars running for City Council?

Essel has offended many community activists with her aggressive move into CD 2 -- along with the fact that her obvious financial clout is coming from donors who are uninvolved parties to CD 2. Essel has big lead financially and may be the only candidate who can afford to run TV commercials. But money can't buy love and Esssel may find this out the hard way with an election defeat in September.

THE LINE: Essel seems to have offended too many people with her campaign and public opinion seems to be turning against her. She will not win this election. If she somehow earns a runoff with Krekorian, then Paul will win it going away.

McCue is supported by the Green Party of Los Angeles County. Not sure how much that will help, as most people do not identify themselves as "Greens". However, McCue appears to be well-connected through the Studio City Neighborhood Council. If he can get those members out supporting him, he could be a factor.

THE LINE: McCue is not well known enough in other parts of CD 2 to have a realistic chance of winning this election. The fact that he won't accept corporate donations certainly won't help him, either.

I'm not sure if the phrase "Community Organizer" is such a good idea in the political world anymore, but that's just my opinion. Pete Sanchez surprised some of the other candidates at the Valley Village event when he asked the crowd how many people had heard of Pete Sanchez. Nearly everyone raised their hands. There is no doubt that Pete Sanchez has a number of friends and followers in Valley Village. He will get a lot of votes in that area.

THE LINE: Pete Sanchez is not well known enough in other areas of CD 2 to be able to defeat a career politician like Paul Krekorian.

Again, I have to admit to being a little biased towards David. I struck up an unlikely friendship with David as we were both running for Mayor of Los Angeles in March of 2009. Saltsburg has become an unlikely figure in Los Angeles politics, having finished in fourth place in the Mayoral Election in March of 2009. Saltsburg is by far the most colorful and charismatic of all the candidates. Who else could get away with calling themselves "Zuma Dogg" in public forums and not have anyone consider the concept anything out of the ordinary?

He is a tireless Community Advocate who has shed the light on a lot of corruption and "shadiness" (as he likes to put it) at City Hall. Don't underestimate the appeal of "Zuma Dogg". I didn't think he would get over 500 votes for Mayor....he got over 9,000! He has high name recognition from frequently appearing on talk radio stations and being featured in stories in the LA Weekly. And he has been the toughest and most vocal critic, by far, of Essel and Galatzan.

THE LINE : Zuma Dogg will receive thousands of votes in CD 2 , but it will be difficult for him to make a runoff without any campaign budget for mailers and phone calls. Zuma Dogg needs some of his supporters to help him get a 4/4 voter list and a cell phone with unlimited minutes. If he called 100 voters a day...who knows? Councilman Zuma Dogg could be seated next to his buddy, Councilman Zine.

Frank Sheftel is a businessman with long-term ties to CD 2. His website says that he went to elementary school, High School and College all in CD 2. Sheftel owns the Candy Factory on Magnolia Boulevard. I know Frank because he is being managed by David Hernandez, and I consider both of them to be friends of mine.

There are many things to like about Frank as a candidate. He has deep roots in the community. As a businessman, he understands the damage that bad government can do to businesses and to an economy.
Frank is very personable and has been well prepared out on the campaign trail. At one of the forums, he really slammed Paul Krekorian and Tamar Galatzan for walking away from their elected jobs just to seek another elected position. Frank has yard signs and has been actively campaigning at multiple events. Frank also has a team of organized supporters that could possibly get him up near the top in vote totals in September.

THE LINE : Frank Sheftel could be a factor in this race. His team is quite loyal to him and have faith in his campaign. He is a down-to-earth good guy. You don't get many people like him in politics.

(Photo caption: Krekorian announcement ignites crowds in L.A.)

I want to be clear about one thing. I think Paul Krekorian is the worst possible candidate for the City Council seat. Why? Because he's just like all the others downtown. He is a carpetbagging, rubber-stamping, budget-destroying , State-bankrupting, freedom-hating liberal. Paul Krekorian is not the answer for CD 2. However, many voters in Los Angeles are Democrats, and they prefer leadership of this nature.

His list of endorsers reads somewhat like a list of "The Usual Suspects". Paul Koretz, Brad Sherman, Loretta Sanchez, Karen Bass, Kevin De Leon, and the SEIU all feel that Los Angeles is not being destroyed quickly enough, and that the help of Paul Krekorian is needed. Krekorian is also detestable because he started shopping for low-rent apartments in CD 2 minutes after Wendy Gruel won her election as City Controller. The Higby-endorsed Burbank Democrat was thinking three moves ahead of everyone else. Chris Essel still doesn't know her new address, and on her best day, could never even dream of outfoxing a professional politician like Krekorian.

Krekorian will teach L.A. residents his Sacramento motto... "No tax is too high, No fee is too high.."

THE LINE : Because Krekorian is a career politician who understands how to win elections, he is best positioned to win this race. Because of his name recognition, he should get 35-50% of the vote in the primary. This is horrible news for Los Angeles, but hey...this City re-elected Antonio Villaraigosa. Competence in an elected official is clearly not a job requirement here.

Mary Benson is the one true wild card in this race. Her results will be difficult to predict. She is not only well known, but practically beloved by people who have worked with her in different groups and organizations.
The "Big 3" probably worry about her quite a bit because she is honest, open, and has a lot of integrity. She is seen as "the friendly neighbor" by many in CD 2.

THE LINE: Mary Benson could be a factor in this race if she makes a real effort. But the City Ethics website shows she has raised and spent less than $1,000 in her campaign so far. Tough to beat professional politicians with that little. However, she could be the David-vs.-Goliath type of story that people like.

Augusto Bisani is originally from Italy and still has a little bit of an accent in English. He is a long-term business owner in the Valley. He seems like a nice guy and has been refreshingly honest and unguarded at the debates and forums. However, I think maybe Mr. Bisani hasn't fully thought out his run for office. Sometimes he admits to not knowing anything about some of the important subjects discussed at the forums.

THE LINE: Augusto Bisani has little chance in this election. He is not well known. His performances at the forums have not tended to increase his support.