Eastside L.A. voters in the March 5 primary might elect someone outright for City Council District 1 without awaiting the May 21 runoff if either candidate gets 50 percent plus one vote. The spoils? A $178,789 job, a staff of about 20 aides, and eight free cars paid for by L.A. taxpayers. So the Jose Gardea vs. Gil Cedillo race got ugly in recent weeks.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa endorsed his old Assembly chum, Cedillo. But Gardea is better-known to many voters because he's the ex-chief of staff to outgoing Councilman Ed Reyes. So Gardea is pushing hard the fact that the Chevron corporation is backing Cedillo.

Jose Gardea; Credit: Courtesy of Korean Resource Center

Jose Gardea; Credit: Courtesy of Korean Resource Center

Streetsblog did some excellent sleuthing in February after Cedillo wrongly claimed at a debate that he failed to vote on California's precedent-setting anti-global warming law, AB 32, because he was home with his sick wife.

That Cedillo claim was false, and as L.A. Streetsblog reported last month:

“I mis-spoke,” Cedillo said on a call with Streetsblog earlier today. “It was AB 1493 that I was home for, and it was Senator Vargas, a moderate Democrat, who voted yes.

Here's the story. AB 1493 and AB 32 have a lot in common. They were both controversial at the time. They both dealt with vehicle emissions. They were both authored by Senator Fran Paley, who endorses Cedillo's campaign. There are some major differences, AB 1493 was passed in 2002 and AB 32 was passed in 2006. That's an important difference, as Cedillo's wife passed away in 2002, not 2006.”

Gardea has been all over Cedillo about that huge mistake or huge fib, and about his backing from Chevron in a municipal race.

Gardea says that, “The people of the 1st District should choose me because of my experience, ethics, and because I want to move the district forward.”

He is known for organizing the first gang injunction in the Pico-Union community. But Gardea is also known as a loud cheerleader for the less-than-popular and now-defunct Community Redevelopment Agency and its often luxurious spending on big-developer projects that had little to do with fighting “blight.”

Cedillo hopes next Tuesday to be elected this year's first among a big “Sacramento South” contingent of termed-out legislators trying to get elected to the Los Angeles City Council.

Legislators like Felipe Fuentes and Bob Blumenfield got used to nice gigs as the highest paid state lawmakers in America: roughly $135,000 in annual pay ($95,291 salary plus a staggering $141.86 per diem for food and housing every day they are “in session” in the legislature.)

But Sacramento South looks even better to them: L.A. City Council members are the highest paid council members in the United States, making more than members of the U.S. Congress.

Gardea — and let's be clear, he knows the City Council political post is wildly lucrative, too — tells the Weekly, “My opponent is benefiting with Super PACs from Chevron, Walmart, and Farmers Insurance. I'm not the corporate choice in this race. He owes an explanation on this to the people in District 1.”

Chevron spent $1.8 million lobbying against the passage of AB 32.

Gil Cedillo; Credit: Courtesy of Jennifer Rivera

Gil Cedillo; Credit: Courtesy of Jennifer Rivera

After the February candidate forum hosted by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition — at which Cedillo insisted he wasn't in Sacramento the day the AB 32 vote went down — a review of the Senate Daily Journal revealed that Cedillo was indeed in Sacramento that day in 2006. He voted on numerous measures before and after missing the vote on AB 32.

Cedillo was too busy to talk on the phone with L.A. Weekly today.

But his campaign assistant, Jennifer Rivera, sent us a statement saying, “Gil cannot control independent expenditures,” such as the one spent on him by Chevron, “and his record shows that he has not been beholden to any special interest group. This is proven by the broad support he has from both Labor and Business alike.

Rivera slammed Gardea, saying that under his leadership CD 1 “has seen the worst job creation, in fact the number of jobs in Council District One fell 9.6%, making it the number one job-loser in the district.”

Rivera adds that, “The District cannot afford to have 4 more years of failed leadership during a time when good paying jobs are drastically needed.”

It's possible neither man will win outright on Tuesday by getting at least 50 percent of the vote.

It all depends on how many votes go to Eastside businessman Jesse Rosas, who has spent only $3,500 and does not have much name ID.

Cedillo and Gardea and their backers have spent more than $654,000 campaigning.

The communities that make up 13.5 square-mile District 1 include all or part of:

Glassell Park, Cypress Park, Highland Park, Mt. Washington, Solano Canyon, Elysian Park, Echo Park, Westlake, Angelino Heights, Temple Beaudry, Lafayette Park, Chinatown, Victor Heights, Lincoln Heights, Montecito Heights, Pico Union, Adams-Normandie, Mid Cities and MacArthur Park.

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