By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The image worked well in a congressional district like Becerra's, which includes what has been generally a more conservative Anglo community in Eagle Rock and a liberal one in Mount Washington, together with the Latino bastions of Boyle Heights and El Sereno.
It also played in a council district like the 14th, which covers much of the same area. When Pacheco walked door-to-door in 1997 on his way to an upset victory over David Tokofsky to represent the district on the city's Charter Reform Commission, he took Boyle Heights for granted and focused on Eagle Rock.
"He looked so nice, dressed in a suit and tie," 82-year-old Eagle Rock community leader Eleanor Duffy recalls. "He talked about the problem with gangs. He said he was an attorney. He knew what he was doing."
By the time of Padilla's campaign for City Council, waged against 52-year-old Corinne Sanchez, the phenomenon was dubbed the "mijoeffect," after the Spanishä term of endearment for a son. Voters trusted the well-educated young men they came to see as their own boys.
But there was an underside. The Latino "Boy Scout" image of those who took office in the 1990s sometimes covered over ruthless campaign tactics.
Becerra denied personal involvement, but his campaign was found responsible for the recordings of a Gloria Molina impersonator warning voters against supporting Villaraigosa in the 2001 mayoral race.
The phone bank used for the calls was owned by Cal Inc., a charitable organization set up by Pacheco. It was leased out to La Colectiva, a group put together by Pacheco's friend GutierRuiz. The tape equipment was programmed — unknowingly, he and Pacheco said — by Pacheco staffer Lloyd Monserratt, another young man of the golden-boy generation (although strictly a behind-the-scenes strategist, being far too overweight to follow the Becerra image into elected office).
And, of course, Pacheco has denied any connection with the racial and family attacks that were sent out against Villa-raigosa in November. Credit was claimed instead by another 1990s golden boy — Pacheco's Berkeley and Loyola Law School classmate Ricardo Torres.
The son of a respected Los Angeles Superior Court judge, Torres failed to ride the Becerra train to electoral victory, losing an Assembly primary to Villaraigosa's college and law-school friend Gil Cedillo. But he stayed very much on the scene, serving as attorney for Henry Lozano — former Becerra chief of staff and active strategist for Pacheco — in a bitter child-custody fight with Alatorre.
Torres also was attorney for La Colectiva, which did work for Becerra and Councilman Ed Reyes, and which in 2001 became the subject of a district attorney's probe into whether it improperly spent funds for Pacheco that were earmarked for educating families about health-care options for children. No charges have been filed.
La Colectiva has changed its name to Mothers for Nick and two weeks ago reported spending enough money for Pacheco, independent of his campaign, to lift the donation cap on all three candidates. The move was timely — with more than a month left before the election, Pacheco already had raised and very nearly spent his limit. He denies any improper coordination with his friend's group.
One older Latino official, speaking on condition of anonymity, calls the '90s generation of people like Pacheco and Torres "the beneficiary of other people's work."
"They all have this entitlement, this sense that someone owes them something," the official says. "They're mad at Alatorre, mad at Polanco, mad at Molina. They know the game, but they don't have the moral compass."
Ayon describes the Torres mailers as a turning point.
"After those fliers I don't know if anyone is ever going to buy the Boy Scout image again," Ayon says. "This now defines them forever."
LOS ANGELES COUNTY FEDERATION of Labor chief Miguel Contreras is unimpressed with Pacheco's achievements in getting the goods for a district that has long gone without.
"There've been about 50 killings here in the last year alone in Boyle Heights," Contreras complains. "And what's been done to address that crisis? What good is having a safe road if you don't have safe streets?"
The City Council that Julie Butcher and other city union leaders hail as one of the most effective in years is, in Contreras' eyes, a disaster. He faults officials like Pacheco for failing to keep up the tradition of the previous council.
"Under the last City Council, with Jackie Goldberg and Richard Alatorre and Mark Ridley-Thomas, we passed legislation like the worker-retention ordinance, the living-wage ordinance, responsible-contractors ordinance," Contreras says. "In the last year, in this City Council, we had zero type of progressive legislation."
Contreras has no qualms about bumping off a generally labor-friendly Latino Democratic incumbent like Pacheco for someone he believes will back his progressive agenda more vigorously. He has done it before.
In 2000, Contreras' County Fed grew impatient with 18-year House veteran Matthew "Marty" Martinez, who represented working-class communities in the San Gabriel Valley and parts of unincorporated East L.A. Martinez was best known for constituent services, least known for high-minded social or political agendas. He generally voted pro-labor, but bucked union leaders on the North American Free Trade Agreement and on gun control.