City District 12 is the only sector of L.A. without an incumbent running in the March 2011 election -- but Mitchell Englander, with $430,000 in campaign funds, double the sum of any other candidate in any district, is the closest thing to. He currently serves as Chief of Staff under L.A. City Councilman Greig Smith, sharing his boss' LAPD allegiances and devil-may-care swag.
So what we've got is a sort of LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy situation, where "out with the old" just leads to "in with the old deputy," for an autopilot legacy that will allow the tight-knit fiesta at City Hall to carry on sans crashers.
On Monday morning, the City Ethics Commission updated the "election totals" for L.A. City Council candidates -- and we got a sunny shocker. It looked as if there might be another District 12 candidate capable of batting against the big boys: Brad Smith.
Smith (not Greig) is a former LA Daily News reporter and current neighborhood councilmember -- which would make for a winning mix of critical savvy and political know-how. He was able to raise almost $25,000 since September, the same increase as Englander in that quarter, bringing his total contributions to $32,410.
However, a statement on his ridiculously good-looking campaign website this morning dashes all hopes of an upset. Smith writes:
"Thank you for your support and encouragement in this effort. It has been truly rewarding to see so much support from my hometown, a community that Maria and I love. However, it is with deep regret that I am announcing I am withdrawing from the race. For very real personal and financial issues, I will not be able to devote the time and energy necessary to this campaign.
Although it appears at this point my name will remain on the ballot, I will not be actively campaigning, fundraising, advertising, or endorsing any other candidate. This is a personal decision arrived at after much thought.
We will, of course, be paying our campaign bills and returning as much as we can to our donors. Again, thank you again for your kindnesses and encouragement; I truly appreciate it."
Guess it's about time to take that contribution form down, too, man.
Encino Patch reported on a tame "debate" between City Council candidates last week, back when Smith was only showing $4,000 in the bank.
Englander, who as chief of staff follows a line of succession leading back to former Councilman Hal Bernson, didn't bad-mouth the system. [Ed note: No shit.] Instead, he talked about eliminating needless departments and creating an economic development department that could prove beneficial to economic growth.
Smith, a manager at a civil engineering firm, said no one can save Los Angeles but Angelenos themselves. "Let's roll up our sleeves and get it done," Smith said.
At the same event, the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin spoke to Smith privately in an interview that, looking back, already showed signs of defeat:
Brad Smith ... acknowledged in an interview that Englander is the frontrunner.
"I know it's a long shot (to win outright), but we might be able to force him into a runoff, and that alone would be a watershed in this city," Smith said.
Smith ... said he hopes to break what he calls an "undemocratic" line of succession in District 12.
So Englander's sailing smooth now, ready to do like predecessor Greig Smith did in 2003 when he took the District 12 seat from his predecessor, Hal Bernson. Bleh. It's the kind of noble incest that makes our intestines crawl.
The race still has four remaining candidates -- businessman Dinesh "Danny" Lakhanpal, small-business gal Kelly M. Lord Jr., restaurant owner Navrai "Singh" Singh and Neighborhood Councilmember Armineh Chelebian -- but only Lakhanpal has even been able to raise as much as $7,000.
That's like a stupid Sacajawea coin in the face of a half-million dollars, a police force and the endorsement of the entire City Council. Still, here's to trying. And Englander: Stop grinning so hard. Your diamond fillings are showing.