The Los Angeles City Council race most worth watching is in its final furlong, and political bloggers from Mayor Sam to the City Maven are flogging the last stretch with juicy tales of meticulously kept frenemies lists, quiet spending of taxpayer money on personal staff, and the possession by one candidate of a dead cop's badge.
Although City Councilman Tom LaBonge is enduring a nerve-rattling challenge in Council District 4 from Tomás O'Grady and Stephen Box, and Councilman Bernard Parks faces big-money unions backing his rival Forescee Hogan-Rowles in Council District 8, if either man loses on March 8 it will be a major, historic upset.
Instead, eyes are on the struggle for Council District 14 on the Eastside, where Jose Huizar appears to have the best chance of becoming the first council incumbent ousted by an outsider since 1987, when activist Ruth Galanter beat Councilwoman Pat Russell, a handmaiden for developers.
This time, Flip This House reality TV show star Rudy Martinez has spent a small fortune in hopes of beating Huizar, and Huizar has sometimes appeared to help Martinez.
Huizar drew withering criticism, particularly at MayorSam.blogspot.com, for shifting large sums of money earmarked for community amenities in Boyle Heights to salaries for his personal staff. Then, Huizar was outed for using his staff to maintain a detailed enemies list.
To top it off, Huizar had to fire campaign aide Michael Trujillo for writing a spooky, malevolent e-mail about Martinez. The e-mail was leaked — not to a big newspaper, but to LatinoPoliticsBlog.com.
It's been catnip for local bloggers, who are all over the map in their analyses of the race's outcome — and whose coverage could affect the race if it seeps down to voters in these final days.
Mayor Sam's Sister City blog founder Michael Higby and the site's political contributor, Red Spot, hectored Huizar for months over his failure to explain exactly where he is spending the Eastside community fund known as CLARTS (Central L.A. Recycling and Transfer Station). Huizar finally produced a detailed list that shows $1 million went to his stalled pet downtown project, Bringing Back Broadway.
Mayor Sam has published so many anti-Huizar tips and news bits that one commenter plaintively asks: “Is there anything happening anywhere else in the city OTHER THAN IN CD14?”
At RonKayeLA.com, former Los Angeles Daily News Editor Ron Kaye penned a recent post, “Guns Holstered, No More Bullets in Heads — Peace Reigns (for the Moment) in Martinez vs. Huizar Race.”
In it, Kaye quoted yet another blogger, Tony Butka of NELA Lives!, who attended a Huizar-Martinez debate and wrote: “The career politician vs. the challenger, slick & technical vs. enthusiasm and a genuine regard for people.”
At blogsite CityWatchLA.com, edited by Ken Draper, former executive editor of KFWB News Radio, writers have covered the race straight. Even so, Draper calls the campaign “nonsensical” and believes it may already have been decided — by absentee voters who have mailed in their ballots.
Alice Walton, publisher of one-woman blogsite The City Maven, notes she has tried to balance the campaign feuding “with the issues affecting CD 14 like economic development, public safety, the city budget, libraries, cleaning up sidewalks. At the same time, you have two candidates who are pummeling each other — and I don't want to ignore that.”
In January, Walton made a splash by posting photos showing Huizar and Martinez hugging and socializing — after Huizar had fibbed that they were never pals.
Then, a Feb. 23 post on thecitymaven.com earned the headline “CD 14: Where No Issue Is Too Petty.” The blog cited an L.A. Times story in which Huizar attacked Martinez for not speaking Spanish. City Maven allowed Martinez aide Eric Hacopian to return the serve with this retort: “Unfortunately, Mr. Huizar's bilingual skills have only meant that he has failed our communities in multiple languages.”
Reach the writer at davidfutch@ roadrunner.com.