Can a humble police officer from San Pedro become a historic wrench in the well-oiled Los Angeles political machine?
That's up to you, residents of City Council District 15. You can go with candidate Joe Buscaino, the former LAPD officer who's netted endorsements from local police unions and the Los Angeles Times; or you can go with current State Assemblyman Warren Furutani, backed by the Fed and the Democratic party (and therefore likely practicing his acceptance speech in the mirror right now).
But you don't have much time left. Voting day is today — Tuesday, January 17 — and the polls close at 8 p.m.
No matter the outcome (and don't get us wrong — the outcome really matters), the race to replace Janice Hahn has been a fascinating peek into what it might take to steal a City Council seat from its handpicked successor.
Though Buscaino wouldn't normally stand a chance against a career politician like Furutani, he's got the hard-working/heroic serviceman charm working for him, hard, on the hometown front. With strong pushes from the L.A. Police Protective League and some local labor leaders, he snuck up behind Furutani for some unexpected success over the last few months of campaigning.
As LA Weekly's Gene Maddaus reported on November 22:
Joe Buscaino came from nowhere to win the most votes in last week's primary in the 15th Council District.
Since then, the San Pedro cop been racking up endorsements, and he seems to have the edge heading into the Jan. 17 runoff against veteran Assemblyman Warren Furutani.
So what could stop him? How about the L.A. County Federation of Labor? … If the Fed goes with Furutani — a longtime labor stalwart — that could give him a fighting chance.
Of course, the Fed did end up going with Furutani — bringing the candidates neck-and-neck.
Meanwhile, the Times learned some important (if kind of depressing) lessons about municipal election discourse: You can't just diss both candidates in a snarky, shameful double interview that's ultimately about the sad state of politics, then try to convince voters that one of them is worth electing a few weeks before the polls open. Or you can, but the few people paying attention will hate you forever, and the rest of the apathetic voter base won't understand what they're supposed to do.
LA Weekly's own Hillel Aaron leaned Buscaino in a recent piece on the dire need to shake up the L.A. City Council (and make sure do-nothing pols like Furutani don't continue to win elections in their sleep):
“What I find disturbing,” says Joel Kotkin, an expert on the evolution of cities and a presidential fellow at Chapman University, “is the lack of discourse. Los Angeles did not always have a perfect democracy, but you had arguments.
“Now they're like the Stepford Wives. They're a bunch of zombies.”
… The council is more ideologically homogenous than ever before, thanks to the tightening grip of the L.A. County Democratic Party, led by Eric Bauman, and the city-employee labor unions that pour in money to elect establishment candidates.
Anyway, the big day has arrived — so here goes nothin'! We'll have the results up as soon as they come in tomorrow morning. Now go make some news, people.