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 Los Angeles Times editorial board had so many doubts about Hahn's ability to step in as governor that it endorsed Newsom, writing that despite his cockiness, he "is a dynamic leader — one who is more suited than Hahn to guide the state, and one who in the meantime is more likely to use the platform of his position in a creative and constructive fashion." After that slap at her nine years in City Hall, Hahn later told L.A. Weekly: "There were three males on the [L.A. Times] editorial board, and they have a hard time thinking a woman can lead."
It is a mark of her strong desire to win that Hahn, seen as a wonderfully caring person by her fans but derided as intellectually incurious by her critics, hired the aggressive Garry South, a consultant for Newsom's failed gubernatorial run, as her chief strategist. The four-prong message crafted by South, which Hahn often repeats, is that she's the daughter of a beloved politician who was one of the first white California leaders to strongly back civil rights in the 1960s; that the Hahn name gives her political might in voter-rich Southern California; that a woman from Southern California running for lieutenant governor will help Attorney General Jerry Brown's gubernatorial bid because she will diversify his so-called "ticket"; and that Newsom doesn't really want the job.
"He's phoning it in," Hahn recently told the Weekly, referring to Newsom's work on the campaign trail.
Hahn has chosen a jarring lament to explain the uneasiness she engenders from newspaper boards and some critics — she says it's because she's a woman. But many of those critics have for years strongly endorsed women for U.S. Senate and other top posts, and her outdated refrain places her politics closer to the 1980s than today. Democrat Dianne Feinstein has served as a U.S. senator for 18 years, Republican Meg Whitman is running for governor, and Republican Carly Fiorina is running for U.S. Senate. If successful on June 8, Fiorina will face longtime Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in November.
Hahn's gender is not what bothers her critics. In the 15th District, some are hoping for a Hahn victory not because they expect great things, but because they see her as a seat-warmer politician in a city racked by 13.2 percent unemployment and decaying roads, water mains, sidewalks and bridges, and increasingly known for its neglected and partially shuttered business districts.
"There are going to be a lot of people voting for her," says Watts Neighborhood Council's Henry Broomfield, who fondly remembers Kenneth Hahn, "but not for the reasons she thinks. If she wins, then we'll finally get her out of office."
In Los Angeles, Hahn rarely takes the lead on tough citywide issues such as dealing with the ever-worsening surface-street traffic congestion, unwieldy business-taxation system and widespread lack of open space. Outside of her efforts on the Port of Los Angeles, she has been all but absent from the public discourse over Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's and the City Council's failure to carry out the most basic of municipal duties, maintaining infrastructure.
She is not, in short, a player.
But that all changed, at least momentarily, two weeks ago. Hahn emerged as a key figure on radio and TV news locally and nationally, including an appearance on Fox News' On the Record With Greta Van Susteren, after co-sponsoring a City Council resolution to boycott Arizona for its approval of a tough law that cracks down on illegal immigrants.
On May 12, Hahn and Ed Reyes, who represents the Eastside's City Council District 1, led a carefully scripted presentation in council chambers, where the boycott was approved by a vote of 13-1 before a packed crowd and media throng (Councilman Paul Krekorian was absent; Councilman Greig Smith voted against the boycott). Although it is not clear how the resolution will be enacted, it aims to suspend city business with companies in Arizona as a way to punish that state's politicians for a law that has outraged many.
The boycott is a red-meat issue for liberal Democrats, Latinos and labor-union adherents, who will dominate the Democratic voter turnout in the June primary, and upon whom Hahn is relying to push ahead of Newsom. Largely unknown outside L.A., Hahn succeeded in gaining much-needed public exposure from her recent role as a boycott leader, which likely was prearranged with her City Council colleagues to help her statewide race. (South, her campaign consultant, admits Hahn lags some 20 points behind Newsom in name recognition.)
But except for Hahn's election-season grab for headlines, since 2001 she has expended most of her efforts playing it safe. Despite representing Watts, where businesses are boarded up, and Wilmington and Harbor City, whose neighborhoods are mired in air pollution from port activity, it appears that Hahn has done little homework on the hot-button issues beyond the borders of District 15.
This day, she sits in her City Hall office facing a painting-within-a-painting showing her relaxing on a sofa below a portrait of her bespectacled father. She has spent the hours since 5 a.m. appearing on TV and radio shows to talk about the Arizona boycott. Now, in an interview with the Weekly, Hahn speaks in platitudes and without great detail and frequently needs help from her aides to provide answers on issues such as the top environmental problems facing California.