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Parks also gets in quick digs at Ridley-Thomas, saying, “Our experiences are totally different. I come from an experience of not being elected to an office my whole life.”
Parks is a fiscal moderate with a pro-business bent, voting, for example, against attempts to discourage apartment owners from converting to condos. He was against expanding a “living wage” to LAX hotels. And if he becomes supervisor, he says, he wants to promote market-rate housing rather than rubber-stamp more affordable-housing projects in South L.A.
Ridley-Thomas is a dyed-in-the-wool liberal. He touts a record of expanding health services for school kids. There are few times that he’s voted against his key labor allies.
POLICY DIFFERENCES PROBABLY DON’T EXPLAIN the polls. Ridley-Thomas’ lack of name recognition is hurting him against Parks — a widely known civic leader due to his job as chief. Even according to Ridley-Thomas’ own polls, he lags behind Parks.
By last count, Parks led Ridley-Thomas by about $200,000 in fund-raising. He owes that advantage to businesses that appreciate his views — and also his political connections. For instance, Parks has received contributions from developers who have business with the MTA, and Parks sits on its powerful board. (The councilman says his campaign does not intend to accept money from any developer that would create a conflict of interest.)
But Parks will face an onslaught of large independent expenditures from big labor. The powerful L.A. County Federation of Labor paints Parks as a dangerous fiscal hawk who will send its members back to poverty. “They allege that I’m anti-union because I don’t vote for their wages,” Parks says. “I went back and did research. I’ve had 104 opportunities to vote for raises in my five years on the [city] council. I’ve voted against four.”
For much the same reason, the county’s Democratic Party bureaucracy is jumping in to fight Parks, with Eric Bauman, county chairman, saying, “I’m not going to tell you how much we’re going to spend” — but it will be “very significant.”
Do voters give a rip about the narrow issues pursued by local party functionaries, or by a union federation interested largely in government-worker salaries and government contracts? Union members in California have a habit of ignoring vote directives from their leaders, but the district does house 100,000 union members.
None of that may matter, since Latino voters will make up 25 percent of the action on June 3.
Predicting the Latino vote — far more diverse than the often monolithic black vote — won’t be easy. According to Fernando Guerra of Loyola Marymount University’s Center for the Study of L.A., Latinos are more consistently pro-union than union members themselves. Advantage Ridley-Thomas. But Latinos regularly rank public safety as the most important priority — after education. Advantage Parks.
“[A] chief of police is always going to be seen as good on public safety,” Guerra says. “But I don’t expect that [Latinos] will vote as a bloc ... I think we’re going to see a really close vote.”
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