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
Villaraigosa's longtime friend and Democratic political operative Lydia Camarillo was the convention's CEO; she jumped from that high-profile job to immediately working for Villaraigosa on his unsuccessful 2001 mayoral campaign. Now, Camarillo is vice president of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, currently touting a $35 Villaraigosa bobble-head doll that he "graciously" allowed. The group has been criticized for being an arm of the Democratic get-out-the-vote effort: While it signs up independents and Republicans, the majority of its work goes into signing up Latino Democrats. And Latino Democrats heavily favor Hillary Clinton.
Then, in 2002, Burkle, a big Villaraigosa backer, handed Bill Clinton a much-discussed and murky job as "adviser" to his multinational Yucaipa Companies, which The Wall Street Journal several days ago reported is about to turn Clinton into a very rich man, with a probable payout of $20 million when Clinton severs his financial ties with Yucaipa to avoid possible blow-back on his wife.
With so many favors owed back and forth between this circle of L.A. power players, City Hall observers were not surprised when Broad was able to push through his pet Grand Avenue project downtown — with Villaraigosa's blessing. Now, each of these powerful allies has a role to play on February 5.
"It's a giant circle linking Hillary to Villaraigosa to Burkle," says Tokofsky.
Not that there's anything wrong with that, he notes. If Obama had any history in California, he would be doing much the same. But he hasn't got the personal roots to land the top echelon of well-known California Latinos as background for his TV shots.
Personal pleas from noteworthy Latinos who are not elected officials will also become part of the hype as Hillary Clinton tries to avoid a so-so win in California (when a landslide was expected), and Obama tries to maintain his momentum. Among those nonelected figures, Clinton will trot out the rousing support she earned from labor icon Dolores Huerta and the United Farm Workers; Obama will push his support from Maria Elena Durazo, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.
One labor insider says the potential for ugliness is "high," especially because Durazo announced her surprise support for Obama without consulting the huge unions that make up the County Federation of Labor. Media outlets gave the misimpression that Durazo was speaking for labor — which by and large supports Clinton. Durazo is backing Obama on a personal level, not on behalf of labor, and has temporarily left her post to work at Obama's L.A. headquarters.
Obama's campaign spokeswoman says Durazo is a big supporter, "working here at headquarters from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m." But in the backbiting world of Latino kingmaking, it's widely known that Durazo is furious with Clinton backer Nunez for his support of the expansion of nonunion Indian casinos (in the form of propositions 94 through 97 on the February 5 ballot). Her jump into Obama's camp is seen by some as payback to Nunez.
No wonder campaign observers are suggesting Angelenos fasten their seat belts while the Democrats get down and dirty. Yet the moment either Clinton or Obama is chosen as the nominee, all the warring Latino leaders will immediately endorse that candidate. Because after all the name-calling, Villaraigosa, Nunez, Becerra and the others will be expected by the party to join forces in the Southwestern states of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, doing whatever possible to stop those swing states from going Republican in November and handing the White House to the GOP nominee.
"No matter what you hear now, it's all about later on," says Tony Quinn, co-publisher of the California Target Book, which tracks California races. "And for the Democrats, 'later on' means the Southwest in November."