Former mayoral candidate Kevin James endorsed Eric Garcetti today, making him the latest conservative to side with the liberal councilman out of concern that Controller Wendy Greuel is too beholden to unions.
James, a former conservative radio host, joins bloggers Michael Higby, of Mayor Sam, and Paul Hatfield, of Village to Village in backing Garcetti. Another blogger, former Daily News editor Ron Kaye, has remained neutral in the runoff — though he, too, has vigorously attacked Greuel over her labor support.
In a city with very few Republican elected officials, conservative voters may be more likely to turn to talk show hosts and bloggers when deciding whom to vote for. During the primary, most made the easy decision to support James, who was the only Republican in the field. But since James finished a distant third, many — though certainly not all — have gravitated to Garcetti.
“The city has been bankrupted, quite frankly, by the unions,” said Higby, who has added the #TeamGarcetti hashtag to his Twitter picture. “We can't have a mayor or elected officials who owe their complete allegiance to the unions.”
Working Californians, an independent group led by the Department of Water and Power union, spent $2 million on Greuel's behalf during the primary. The L.A. Police Protective League spent another $580,000. That support is one of the few clear distinctions between Greuel and Garcetti, who are both ambitious liberals with long records at L.A. City Hall.
James attacked Greuel repeatedly over her union support during the campaign. During an appearance late this afternoon on KFI's John & Ken Show, James kept it up.
“I think DWP's millions that they're spending on Greuel is a conflict of interest,” James said. “They want a yes-person.”
James has taken some criticism from his supporters for backing Garcetti. But in an interview with the Weekly, he predicted that most conservative voters would come around to him.
“They're not there yet, but they're moving in that direction,” James said. “I intend to deliver him my votes.”
Paul Hatfield, a centrist Democrat who blogs from a fiscally conservative standpoint, said that his concerns about Greuel predate the unions' decision to back her. Instead, he said he has followed her record as controller, and seen a lot of press releases but little follow-up.
“I think Garcetti described her very accurately as the press release controller,” Hatfield said.
Going into the campaign, Greuel was seen as the more “moderate” candidate, due to her record representing the San Fernando Valley on the city council. She does have conservative support — including former Mayor Richard Riordan, the Valley Industry and Commerce Association and the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce. But her conservative backers tend to be more establishment-based, compared to the bloggers who are backing Garcetti.
On Monday, Flash Report, perhaps the most prominent conservative blogs in the state, trumpeted its endorsement of Greuel. But those who clicked the link found it redirected to the Wikipedia entry for April Fool's Day.
John & Ken are perhaps the most influential voice for L.A. conservatives. Ken Chiampou, half of the duo, said during today's interview with James that they would stay neutral.
“We are not gonna be endorsing anybody,” he said. “Although Wendy Greuel is bothersome.”
Update: We heard from Kaye soon after we posted, and he tells us that, for the record, he objects to being grouped with conservatives. He prefers to be called “a radical centrist.”