Team Antonio Scores

They were in uniform, like a cricket team, except instead of white flannels they donned identical City Hall regulation bluish-grayish suits and variations on the red power tie. They left their group hug in the VIP room at Salesian High School in Boyle Heights Tuesday night and strutted their stuff over to the gym: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, City Council President Alex Padilla, Councilmen Ed Reyes and Eric Garcetti. And the Player of the Day, Councilman-elect José Huizar, who had just trounced ex-Councilman Nick Pacheco and a field of eight also-rans. Only Wendy Greuel, in her trademark black-and-white houndstooth, broke ranks, but just in choice of outfit; she joined the rest of the City Hall Power Team to welcome Huizar into the fold.“He is going to be a team player,” Greuel told the cheering crowd of youngsters, peppered with a huge number of City Hall staffers, at Salesian. “That’s why a young girl from the Valley is out here!”Greuel was hardly the only elected official to leave her own district and come into the Eastside’s 14th, spending weekends walking precincts and making calls on behalf of Huizar. The Team wanted this one in a big way, and they wanted to wrap it up right now, without the messiness of a January runoff with Pacheco. And this Team — joined on the podium by latecomers Tony Cardenas and Jack Weiss in, yes, the very same blue-gray suit and red tie — got what it wanted.Ah, the Team. City of Los Angeles elected officials and staffers, and especially the mayor, whose own City Council term Huizar will be finishing. Labor unions and political consultants. Citizens of the 14th District too? Oh, sure. About 1 in 5 of the 76,000 registered to vote. But more than 1 of every 2 of those actually bothered to go to the polls.Earlier in the evening, the Team welcomed Herb Wesson to the fold. Just as Huizar will fill out the vacancy left by Villaraigosa, Wesson will take the spot left by Martin Ludlow, who was over at the Biltmore, as head of the County Federation of Labor, cheering the defeat of the governor’s ballot measures. Wesson trounced his two opponents with around 80 percent of votes cast, although only about 1 in 4 of the midcity district’s registered voters voted for him.Over at a friend’s private home in Eagle Rock, Nick Pacheco was telling the crowd of supporters that it was going to be a long night, but for Pacheco it just wasn’t long enough. His campaign staff hunched over a laptop set up on the kitchen counter, hitting the “refresh” button to check the latest returns on the county registrar’s Web site, but each new report showed Huizar keeping his total above 50 percent, enough to avoid a runoff. Outside, Pacheco supporters clustered among the patio heaters and the red, white and blue balloons, trying to keep their spirits up. It was clear, though: Pacheco, elected to the Council in 1999 only to be ousted by Villaraigosa in 2003, wasn’t going to get his old job back.How did Huizar pull it off? With the Team, of course, captained by Villaraigosa. The mayor made it clear from the beginning that Huizar was his man, and Huizar kept driving home the point. That brought tens of thousands of dollars from labor and from Antonio supporters, and it brought 10 of the 13 City Council members, anxious to be seen as loyal members of the mayor’s Team.Anything else? Only about 10 days of some of the most negative campaigning seen in these parts since Pacheco’s own re-election quest two and a half years ago.“Nick Pacheco is lying about his opponent. Again,” Huizar said in one particularly nasty mailer. He claimed Pacheco was “peddling the baseless charge that José Huizar wants to repeal Prop. 13.” When did Pacheco make such a claim? Certainly not at any public forum, and not in any written material.“Remember why we voted Nick Pacheco out of office in 2003?” another mailer asked. It supplied the answers with these gems: He was “investigated” — not charged or convicted — for misusing funds. Pacheco was fined for ethics-law violations, and a contributor was fined for laundering donations to his campaign; the mailer fails to mention how many members of the Team have found themselves in the same predicaments. The best item is that Pacheco went to work for a law firm “seeking lucrative contracts” from the city. Not mentioned is that Huizar’s firm, Escovar, Avila, Christopher & Ruiz, was until a few weeks ago registered as a city lobbyist, or that his former firm, Weston Benshoof, lobbies for Browning-Ferris Industries and some of the city’s biggest developers. Anything wrong with that? No. But then, there was also nothing wrong with the fact that the firm where Pacheco worked wanted city contracts. No one can ever prove that the negative mailers put Huizar beyond the reach of a runoff. That’s just politics. But he’ll now carry those hits as part of his political résumé, even though he had enough cash to send out scads of carefully tailored upbeat pieces, like the ones targeted separately to Boyle Heights, Mount Washington, Highland Park, Hermon and Eagle Rock, each featuring photos of the neighborhoods 100 years ago.The oddest pitch on Huizar’s behalf came not from him but from the hotel and restaurant workers union, which sent voters rubber gloves and sponges emblazoned with a Huizar campaign pitch in both English and Spanish. Clean up with Huizar, perhaps?In one twist, Huizar got the negative campaigning ball rolling early on by blasting Pacheco for accepting a donation from Ricardo Torres II, the lawyer and Pacheco friend who sent out the truly sleazy anti-Villaraigosa mailers in 2003 that, let’s face it, ended Pacheco’s political career. The irony comes from the fact that while he was taking his swipe at Pacheco, Huizar was also sending a request for funds to Torres. Oops.But no mailer grabbed more attention than the one sent out in the final days of the campaign by 19-year-old candidate Crystal Arceo, who blasted Huizar for his record on the school board. Why the hit? Early in the campaign, Huizar took Arceo to lunch at one of his favorite haunts, across the street from the Hollenbeck Police Station, and Arceo said she came away impressed. It seemed that a mutual endorsement pact might be in the works. Did Pacheco later take her to a better lunch? No, said her campaign manager and stepfather, Ed Granados. Arceo was simply doing her best to grab votes away from the front-runner.At Arceo’s campaign party at El Arco Iris restaurant in Highland Park, she was greeted by a bunch of red roses left earlier by City Commissioner Theresa De Vera, daughter of candidate Ruby De Vera. They had become friends during the campaign, Granados said. Ruby De Vera, a staffer for Richard Alatorre, Jackie Goldberg and Ed Reyes, came in third, but pulled in fewer than 2,000 votes. Next was attorney Brian Heckmann, who sported the endorsement of county Supervisor Mike Antonovich — valuable backing elsewhere, but not worth much in this Eastside district. Then six other candidates, including Olympic boxer Paul Gonzales and activist hero David Sanchez, none of whom reached 1,000 votes. None of them was on the Team.Maybe next time they should get themselves a bluish-grayish suit.


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