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
With four weeks left in the campaign, de León’s contributions now exceed $500,000, a war chest that includes several donations from his colleagues at the CTA and a number of contributions from Villaraigosa supporters, including $6,600 from businessman Richard Meruelo — the largest individual donor to Villaraigosa’s 2005 mayoral bid. By comparison, Chavez, Popp and Buelna had each raised less than half that amount.
De León’s enormous financial advantage has already allowed him to produce a glossy eight-page brochure introducing him to voters, followed by a more compact, 12-page mailer spelling out his philosophy on public schools — and offering no mention of mayoral control. However, the financial mismatch did not discourage Buelna, who argued that de León has spent too little time in the district to leave an impression on voters.
“In terms of Sacramento, they think they’ve bought the election,” Buelna said. “But in terms of voters, this is not a done deal.”
Buelna, 33, argued that he is much more acquainted with the district than the other candidates. Popp, in turn, portrayed herself as a champion of impoverished families, saying she forced slumlords to address substandard housing and filed a lawsuit that resulted in the preservation of 1.5 million units of affordable housing.
Chavez, 34, is trading heavily on her ties to United Farm Workers, arguing that her work as an organizer sets her apart from the other candidates. A resident of City Terrace, Chavez said she will use her skills to bring together disparate communities from Historic Filipinotown to Hollywood. “Coming out of an organization like UFW, we’ll be able to build a coalition with all the different groups in this community,” she said.
DESPITE HER TIES TO THE UFW, Chavez refused to discuss the spate of news articles that have criticized her organization as failing to adhere to the principles of her grandfather. Asked about Villaraigosa’s decision to endorse de León, Chavez referred a reporter to a written statement her campaign issued days earlier.
“Unfortunately, before I entered the race Mayor Villaraigosa had made a commitment to Speaker Fabian Nuñez to support Fabian’s friend from high school,” said the statement.
Popp did not go so quietly, saying she attended an endorsement interview at City Hall, where the mayor told her that she was the most qualified but that he felt a loyalty to Nuñez. A similar message was delivered weeks later by Maria Elena Durazo, the interim head of the County Federation of Labor, Popp said.
“What you should do is look at our qualifications,” she said. “And if, at the end of the analysis, you think that I am more qualified, and yet Kevin got the endorsement of his childhood friend and other folks associated with his childhood friend, then what is that, if not a boys’ network?”
Asked whether he had placed friendship over qualifications, Villaraigosa provided a two-word answer: “Absolutely not.”
Nuñez gave a lengthier, yet similar, response: “I certainly respect every other candidate in the race. The 45th always produces good candidates,” he said. “But Kevin, in my view, is the best qualified.”