May 19 Election: Schwarzenegger, Villaraigosa, Weiss, Bratton, Bass, Go Down in Flames

Even with one key Los Angeles City Council District race still hanging in the balance on the Westside, the political wreckage surrounding some of California's best-known politicians was waist-deep, leaving Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to slog through the recriminations and explanations.

A political unknown until just months ago, former San Pedro cannery worker and longtime attorney Carmen Trutanich, trounced the establishment candidate, Jack Weiss, for Los Angeles City Attorney.

The outcome was widely viewed as a major blow to Villaraigosa's political reach and to his chances at the California governorship. In fact, it was Villaraigosa's second big election loss this year after his controversial Measure B solar energy proposal was rejected by city voters on March 3.

Also on Tuesday, California voters by a huge margin rejected all of Schwarzenegger's bipartisan ballot measures, backed by the California legislature. Propositions 1A through 1E, which included a $16 billion tax hike, a widely-ridiculed government "spending cap" filled with loopholes, and numerous raids on existing or future state funds to meet California's big state deficit, went down by margins of about 2-1.

The results are a major repudiation of California's political establishment.

The only ballot question that looked as if it might turn into a win for

L.A. City Hall's entrenched political machine was in the Fifth City

Council District race between Paul Koretz, a longtime West Hollywood

politician, and David Vahedi, a new face emerging from the activist

neighborhood council system that's sick of City Hall.


Vahedi-Koretz race was still too close to call, with Koretz ahead by

roughly 300 votes, as of Wednesday morning. The Los Angeles County

Registrar of Voters was still counting an unknown number of

late-arriving absentee ballots and last-minute provisional ballots

(which are generally used by people who have recently moved).


who was backed by hundreds of longtime political insiders in Los

Angeles and who recently finished a stint in California's deeply

unpopular state legislature, faced a very tough race against the

surprise Cinderella candidate Vahedi, who if elected would become one

of the few Iranian-Americans in public office in the area.

A really big winner, meanwhile, was Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley -- and he wasn't even on the ballot.


was a sharp critic of City Councilman Jack Weiss, who had not practiced

law in eight years when he ran for City Attorney on Tuesday, and was

unpopular in his own upscale Westside district for ushering in massive

apartment complexes -- and the resulting traffic. Cooley recruited

Trutanich to run, endorsed him, and helped legitimize him.


Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca also backed Trutanich. Then, negative

campaigning in recent weeks appeared to hurt Weiss far more than

Trutanich, in part because of Weiss' reputation on the City Council for

being arrogant and hard to work with.

Joe Scott, a spokesman for

Cooley with a background in political consulting, immediately posted on his blog an assessment of the election, which probably echoes

Cooley's own views: "While a stunning defeat for

the establishment and labor, the biggest loser was already weakened

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, facing huge budget problems, who went all

out for a weak Weiss while preparing to run for governor this summer."


big loser was LAPD Chief William J. Bratton, who has ruffled feathers

and attracted sharp criticism for repeatedly inserting himself into

ballot races and ballot measures in recent months -- an unheard-of

behavior among police chiefs in L.A. in contemporary times, with the

exception of two controversial endorsements made by Chief Daryl Gates

many years ago.

For reasons Bratton has never fully

articulated, he jumped into Tuesday's city attorney race, which was

held to replace the termed-out Rocky Delgadillo. Bratton joined

Villaraigosa in pushing hard for Weiss, but rather than helping Weiss,

Bratton insted attracted criticism for politicizing the chief's office

and not sticking strictly to his job.

Political handicappers

were arguing Wednesday over which guy faced the worst Election Day

wreckage:  Villaraigosa, who can't even get a well-known, local

politician like Weiss elected to higher office, and was slammed on the

cover of Los Angeles magazine this week as a "Failure," or the hapless Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Schwarzenegger and the Democratically controlled California legislature lost by a landslide

five of their six ballot measures, all of them said by California

polling experts to be too confusing and filled with fine print and

loopholes that not even the experts could decipher.


expert Mark Baldassare, of the Public Policy Institute of California,

quickly took to the airwaves on Wednesday, as did many other analysts,

all to agree that voters were clearly telling Schwarzenegger and the

legislature "to do their jobs" -- find a way on their own to balance

the budget, and not ask voters to do it.

Now the task of

cutting, or finding, billions of dollars to resolve the huge state

deficit gets tossed back to the governor and Democrat majority leaders

Darrell Steinberg, in Sacramento's State Senate, and Karen Bass, in the

State Assembly.

But neither Steinberg, a veteran pol from the

Sacramento area who some say lacks the charisma to persuade his

colleagues to make tough choices, or Bass, an inexperienced politician

from Los Angeles who has gotten caught up in controversies, has been

able to devise a workable, balanced budget to send to the governor.


said it was telling that on Tuesday, the only measure that passed --

and did so resoundingly -- is a fairly weak slap on the legislature's

hand that bans raises for state officials in those years when

California faces a budget deficit.

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