December 18, 2012 | 4:04pm
Everybody panders a bit when they go for a labor endorsement. But at the recent SEIU endorsement meeting, John Choi set the bar for pandering very high.
Choi, a candidate to replace L.A. Councilman Eric Garcetti in the 13th council district, promised that if elected, labor would "be on the inside" when budget decisions are made.
"I'm sick and tired of helping to elect politicians who abandon their friends when the going gets rough," Choi said. "We don't need politicians that answer the door only when we bang on it. If you endorse me, you're going to be on the inside. We're gonna decide together who to open the door for."
The audio is after the jump. Can you guess who got the L.A. County Federation of Labor endorsement in the 13th district?
In an interview with the Weekly, Choi said he did not believe his comments show he is too closely aligned with labor.
"It's important to say we need to come together to find solutions to these problems, and not be in an adversarial position," Choi said. "It's important to bring them inside the conversation and get their ideas."
Choi faces a crowded field, and he's hardly the only pro-labor candidate in the race. Also in the running is Matt Szabo, who had a reputation as a union ally when he was a deputy mayor for Antonio Villaraigosa. But in an interview, Szabo said that he was also willing to stand up to labor.
"I've said no when I had to say no," Szabo said. "I don't take marching orders from anyone."
Szabo was seen as a strong contender for the SEIU endorsement because of his strong relationship during City Hall budget battles. But while the SEIU has not officially weighed in on the race, the SEIU delegates to the county Federation of Labor threw their support behind Choi, which helped win him the endorsement.
Choi is a former staffer at the Federation of Labor, and is widely seen as a favorite of Fed leader Maria Elena Durazo.
The Federation of Labor stayed neutral in the citywide races, and so may have more to spend on independent expenditure efforts in the council races, including Choi's.
Twelve candidates will be on the March ballot in the 13th district -- the most crowded race in the city. So far, Choi is leading the pack in fundraising. Another half dozen candidates have put in serious fundraising efforts, including Szabo, Alexander De Ocampo, Emile Mack, Josh Post, Jose Sigala and Mitch O'Farrell.
The Federation of Labor finalized its endorsements on Monday night and announced them today. In addition to Choi, the Fed is backing Assemblyman Gil Cedillo in the 1st district and Sen. Curren Price in the 9th district.
As we first reported last week
, the Fed could not decide between Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel in the mayor's race. The organization may revisit that decision after the March primary.