By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
As it turned out, it no longer was enough to be a Democrat, Latino and a casual backer of the labor agenda. With term limits looming in Sacramento and a bevy of young elected officials looking to move on, labor and many in the Dem-ocratic Party establishment teamed to run a new-generation Latina, state Senator Hilda Solis. Labor wanted Solis' more proactive voice in Congress — and she won easily.
Martinez's parting shot was to become a Republican in his final months in office, but it was an empty gesture. The County Fed had shown its muscle.
This time, targeting a local City Council race rather than a congressional seat, Contreras actually has upped the ante. Not only can he knock off an incumbent, he is saying, he can knock one off midterm in a term-limits environment. He could politely wait until Pacheco completes his second term and run a candidate for an open seat — but why wait?
If Contreras succeeds, Pacheco will be the first council member ever defeated before being forced out by term limits. You can bet that every other council member will take note. So will Mayor James Hahn and, for that matter, any elected official in Los Angeles, Sacramento or even Washington who has counted on the power of incumbency. Move against the County Fed's agenda at your peril.
"I think you'll see in Antonio Villa-raigosa a real progressive Los Angeles," Contreras says. "He has almost like a folklore status in this community. We need that kind of high profile to take on an incumbent. It's that old saying, 'If you're going to shoot at a prince, you've got to make sure that you kill him.' So we're going to go all out in this campaign."
THE ELECTION WILL MAKE LITTLE difference in policy or legislation. Both men are Democrats. Villaraigosa touts a progressive agenda, but Pacheco can also claim progressive credentials. He worked with Hahn to create a housing trust fund and has demonstrated sensitivity on labor issues.
Cal State Fullerton professor Raphael Sonenshein says that, except for gang issues, no one would have been able to distinguish Villaraigosa from Hahn by looking at votes or initiatives. He says the same probably is true of Villaraigosa and Pacheco.
"The style becomes the substance," Sonenshein says. "For them, it plays out in the issue of crime."
The results of the election will likely have more influence on the inside power game at City Hall. Hahn has benefited from a quiet and supportive council, but that is about to change.
"This next council could be one of the feistier ones we've seen in a long time," predicts Sonenshein.
Former Police Chief Bernard Parks, nursing his anger over Hahn's decision to end his career by denying him a second term at the LAPD helm, is certain to grab the 8th District council chair. He will sit a seat or two away from Dennis Zine, a former director of his nemesis, the Police Protective League.
Former state Assemblyman Tony Cardenas, mentor to council President Alex Padilla, looks like a lock in a new San Fernando Valley district. He will sit near Wendy Greuel, who just a year ago defeated him in a close and bitter election. Their side of the council horseshoe is not expected to be a friendly neighborhood.
Elsewhere in the Valley, results are less predictable, but ornery voters could well send in staunch secession advocate and former Assembly Member Paula Boland (City Hall staffer Greig Smith and school-board veteran Julie Korenstein also could take the race). In Central L.A., it's a tossup so far among labor candidate Martin Ludlow (whose team is also working hard for Villaraigosa), academic Madison Shockley and former Assemblyman Roderick Wright.
Hahn's brain trust, which includes power broker Bill Wardlaw, is backing Pacheco to keep some order in the house. With the trusted Pacheco in place, Hahn could claim the backing of all four Latino council members — including Padilla, Cardenas and Ed Reyes.
Besides, Pacheco, as a lawyer, has an outlet for his electoral ambitions other than the Mayor's Office. If re-elected to the council, he can run next for city attorney. District attorney, even.
But if the council chamber loses Pacheco and gains another ex-legislator in Villaraigosa, who squabbled with Cardenas in Sacramento and who very nearly beat Hahn for mayor, the whole competitive dynamic of City Hall will be turned inside out.
A Councilman Villaraigosa, of course, will have his eye on a 2009 mayoral run. But he won't be alone.
Padilla is more than 20 years Villa-raigosa's junior, but he has several years under his belt as a city commissioner, is a full term ahead as a council member and has the presidency to boot. Population and Latino voting strength in his East Valley district have surged, while the traditional Latino base in Boyle Heights and the rest of the 14th District has leveled off.
Young Los Angeles voters of 2009 may well look to a not-yet-40-year-old Alex Padilla from the New Valley, rather than an almost-60 Villaraigosa from the Old Eastside, to take the reins as the city's first Latino mayor since 1872.