Is L.A. City Council District 13 candidate John Choi running from a sordid past? Is rival Mitch O'Farrell trying to hide his own skeletons?
In a recent heated exchange, O'Farrell and Choi have thrown off the gloves and are aiming for the jugular.
O'Farrell says in a press release that Choi hasn't been forthcoming about his work for disgraced L.A. City Councilman Martin Ludlow. Choi campaign consultant Mike Shimpock throws back: "I don't see Mitch listing his stint as a dancer on cruise ships or managing a juice shop on his resume."
O'Farrell and Choi are battling each other in an extremely competitive race -- for one of the best political jobs in L.A. CD 13 includes such neighborhoods as Hollywood, Silver Lake and Echo Park.
O'Farrell, a former aide to CD 13 Councilman Eric Garcetti, recently was endorsed a second time by the Los Angeles Times. Choi, though, has the backing of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
For the March 5 primary, O'Farrell placed ahead of Choi. But Choi has major money behind him. As of April 6, Choi had raised $400,408 to O'Farrell's $160,337.
Choi also far outpaces O'Farrell in independent expenditure money, which has been mostly delivered by the L.A. County Federation of Labor: $410,669 to O'Farrell's $2,376.
Yet O'Farrell, who worked for Garcetti for 10 years as a top field deputy, has strong support from community leaders in CD 13. Choi, on the other hand, moved into CD 13 in 2012.
In his press release, O'Farrell questions Choi's work history.
"In his public statements and on his website," O'Farrell says, "John Choi has continuously omitted any references to his time serving Ludlow on the council."
Ludlow illegally took union funds to pay for his 2003 City Council race. Choi was an aide for the councilman for two years between 2003 and 2005.
O'Farrell also says that Choi "fails to mention that he followed his former boss [Martin Ludlow] to his new position at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor."
Mike Shimpock, Choi's consultant, responds: "John Choi is not hiding anything, and often speaks of his time organizing in South Los Angeles while working as a field rep for Ludlow.
"Choi didn't even work [at the County Fed] anymore when Ludlow was charged, and was never involved, charged or even accused of wrongdoing."
*See clarification below
In 2005, Ludlow quit the L.A. City Council to head up the County Fed. But he was forced to resign that position in 2006 after he pled guilty to charges of illegally using labor union money during his 2003 City Council race.
O'Farrell says, "I'm proud of the work I've done for CD 13 over the past decade, and I want voters to base their decision on the entirety of my resume. I would only hope that John Choi wants the same. We deserve better than that."
Shimpock responds, "This is just a cheap shot to distract from the fact that O'Farrell got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, taking 20 percent of his runoff contributions from developers, including one convicted of real estate fraud and money laundering."
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Election Day on May 21 can't come soon enough for Choi and O'Farrell.
*Clarification: After first responding to the Weekly last night, campaign consultant Mike Shimpock says today that O'Farrell was incorrect in his assertion that John Choi followed Martin Ludlow to the County Fed in 2005.
After leaving Ludlow's Council District office in 2005, says Shimpock, Choi went straight to work for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa -- not Ludlow. Choi later worked for the County Fed in 2009, long after Ludlow had resigned from there.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.