Bernard Parks, the former L.A. police chief and two-term councilman, is fighting for his political life against a labor-backed independent campaign. Union groups have spent more than $450,000 to support Parks' challenger, Forescee Hogan-Rowles, in the March 8 election.
But now a business coalition is riding to the rescue, launching its own independent campaign to counter the union effort. The L.A. County Business Federation — a coalition of Chambers of Commerce and trade associations — has chipped in $25,000 so far, and plans to spend six figures before the campaign is over.
“We didn't want to allow misinformation and a massive labor barrage to go unanswered,” said Tracy Rafter, BizFed's CEO.
Rafter said that BizFed is phone-banking, precinct-walking and sending mail in the Council District 8, which covers much of South L.A. BizFed hopes to at least stay competitive with the L.A. County Federation of Labor. Working Californians and the L.A. Police Protective League, if not match labor's spending dollar-for-dollar.
“I don't know if we'll get as high as labor,” she said.
BizFed formed in 2008 and supported Parks in his unsuccessful run for the Board of Supervisors. In that race, labor groups spent more than $8 million to elect Mark Ridley-Thomas.
“We raised a good amount of money,” Rafter said. “But we got creamed by labor on that one.”
This is the rematch.
Parks is a longtime friend to the business community, having supported Wal-Mart and opposed the living wage for LAX hotel workers. Those positions have made him a sworn enemy of labor.
“He's about jobs, and standing up against spending that doesn't work for that city,” Rafter said. “He's not afraid, when it comes to balancing the budget, of making some very hard choices.”
At a debate last week, Hogan-Rowles accused Parks of balancing the budget “on the backs of employees.” The business community seems to fear that if she were elected, she'd balance it on the backs of business, by raising taxes and fees.
BizFed intends to focus its attacks on Hogan-Rowles' tenure on the Department of Water and Power Commission, during which time water rates went up.
“Her record has been to always go the ratepayer and say you have to pay more,” Rafter said.
The L.A. Police Protective League, meanwhile, has sent out a mailer this week charging that Parks “took 1,000 police officers off our streets.” That's a reference to Parks' opposition to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's plan to hire 1,000 new officers.