Election 2013

Dennis Zine vs. Ron Galperin: What You Need to Know About the L.A. City Controller's Race

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Mon, May 20, 2013 at 6:30 AM
click to enlarge Ron Galperin, who finished first in the primary, faces off with Dennis Zine for city controller.
  • Ron Galperin, who finished first in the primary, faces off with Dennis Zine for city controller.

If you're not sure whether Dennis Zine or Ron Galperin should get your vote for L.A. city controller, you're not alone: A recent USC/L.A. Times poll found that a whopping 41 percent of voters are still undecided on that very question.

So who should you vote for? The two men who made it out of the six-person primary are mostly similar on the issues: The city should be more efficient, audits are important, they'll root out waste, etcetera, etcetera.

But they are quite different in some key ways. Here's our guide to a few of the factors that could sway your vote.

5. Ron Galperin is the good government favorite. Galperin, an attorney and longtime fiscal activist, finished first in the primary and has been endorsed by both the L.A. Times and the L.A. Daily News. Galperin recently led the city council's Ad-Hoc Commission on Revenue Efficiency, which the Times praised for identifying more than $100 million in savings for the city, writing that Galperin showed "his persistence by keeping the pressure on officials to implement a number of these recommendations, as well as other money-saving changes he's suggested over the years." Galperin has also been endorsed by the still-popular Laura Chick, who served two terms as controller.

4. Dennis Zine is in the City Hall insider. Zine served 33 years at the LAPD and then represented part of the San Fernando Valley on the L.A. city council for 12 years, while the closest Galperin has come was an unsuccessful bid in 2009.

"I know how the system works. I don't need to be trained,'' he said at a candidate's debate, according to the Times. "I don't need to learn how to deal with the City Council, the mayor and the other departments within the city of Los Angeles." The flip side, of course, means Zine has to answer for the actions of the city council -- which are not always popular.

click to enlarge Dennis Zine
  • Dennis Zine

3. Galperin is a Democrat; Zine officially has no party affiliation. The Democrats have all lined up with Galperin, perhaps because up until quite recently, Zine was a registered Republican -- he only changed his affiliation to "declined to state" last year. He told the Times that he's tired of partisan gridlock and out of step with the party on social issues.

However, it's worth noting that it was Galperin who earned the endorsement of L.A.'s favorite Republican, former mayor Richard Riordan, while Zine has been endorsed by outgoing mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat -- proving, perhaps, that in L.A., connections at City Hall trump party affiliation. [Editor's note: This paragraph was corrected at 8:45 a.m.; see note at the end of the post.]

2. Zine has more baggage. In December 2010, the Daily Breeze reported that he was dating a lobbyist -- and, it turned out, he hadn't recused himself from votes involving her clients.

And way back in the day, when he was still with the LAPD, Zine was accused of sexual misconduct. He was ultimately found not guilty of all charges -- but not before the news broke that he'd (allegedly) put "a container of urine and a dozen condoms" in the suitcase of a woman who'd turned down his advances. Classy. (Galperin, in contrast, is happily married to a nice Jewish boy -- the rabbi at Temple Akiba in Culver City.)

1. Zine has raised a lot more money. The latest from the city Ethics Commission shows that Zine has raised $1.14 million to Galperin's $584,433. But Galperin has put his money where his mouth is, contributing $184,700 of his own money on top of that. That's almost as much as the controller's $196,000 salary.

Will that be enough to win? Hard to say; the race is way too close to call, with the most recent polls showing Zine up by just three percent (and with a 4.4 percent margin of error, that means he could actually be losing). Clearly, the way those undecided voters break on Tuesday will matter.

Editor's note: A previous version of this post wrongly stated Richard Riordan's preference in this race. Riordan has endorsed Ron Galperin. We regret the error.

See also: Five Key Differences Between Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel

Follow the writer on Twitter @sarahfenske. Or follow @LAWeekly.

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