By Paul Teetor
It was over in Los Angeles City Council District 2 before the first Election Day vote was counted
or even cast.
“The special interest money just overwhelmed us,” says Frank
Sheftel, a custom chocolate maker and former medical marijuana co-op
who finished with 3 percent of the vote. “This election was
Krekorian and Essel.”
The top three spots in the Council District 2 special
election were established by the more than 7,000 mail-in ballots posted early
Tuesday evening that put Burbank politician Paul Krekorian ahead, Westside businesswoman Christine Essel in
second and LAUSD School Board Member Tamar Galatzan in third. The so-called Grass Roots 7 split the
remaining 25 percent, with Mary Benson doing best among them.
Essel and Krekorian, the two candidates showered with special interest cash, both of whom moved into Council District 2 solely to run for the
job, beat all the longtime civic activists running and
will face each other in a December runoff. One will take away a huge prize:
The highest paying City Council job in America, at $178,789 a year nearly twice as much as that paid to New York or Chicago city council members.
With 55 percent of the votes coming in via snail-mail even
before Election Day dawned, statistically it would have taken a voter
earthquake in polling places yesterday to significantly change the outcome. And
the Grassroots 7 who had believed so strongly that it was time for another
push-back against City Hall by the Valley were bitterly disappointed.
The official results were Krekorian 34.1 percent, Essel 28.3, Galatzan 12.9, Mary Benson 8.2 percent, Pete Sanchez 4.8, Frank Sheftel 3, Zuma Dogg 2.8, Michael McCue 2.3,
Josef Essavi 2.1 and Augusto Bisano 1 percent.
It was even worse than they had feared on their most dispiriting
dog-days of pounding the hot summer pavement and getting blank stares from
voters who hadn't even heard about the special election — because the Los Angeles
Times and Los Angeles Daily News never seriously covered the story.
Now huge cash will flow to Krekorian from big labor, which
wants Krekorian because he will give them 13 steady votes on the 15-member City
Council, and huge cash will flow to Essel from the business community, scared
after watching Los Angeles City Hall continue to earn a rating as the
most business-unfriendly big city in Southern California, even in a severe recession.
The two big papers treated this race for a powerful post
whose winner will shape the development future of much of the Valley like a squabble for a
job in a Mosquito Abatement District.
Says Sheftel, “I think for the first time the blogs beat the daily
newspapers in their political coverage of an important race with citywide
implications. “The major media concentrated their coverage on
the three machine candidates, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy tonight…. only
the blogs gave the others a fair hearing.”
The vote Tuesday was like watching two different elections, rich versus poor, says
Shadow Hills activist Benson.
already had reports of Krekorian busing big groups of people to the polls,” Benson
says. “Not that there's anything illegal about that….it's just something we
could never afford.”
Sanchez, a Valley Village activist, said he was proud of the race he ran but discouraged that the two carpetbaggers who buried voters in slick mailers and costly advertising nabbed the top
“I'm sorry to say that the best four-color flier wins the race.
I'm very proud that I ran a good campaign with nothing to be ashamed of. But
some of those people who put out the four-color fliers had things to be ashamed
of…they said some things in those fliers that aren't exactly true.”
results showed 14, 525 votes cast out
of 123, 750 eligible voters, just 11.74 percent of those eligible, an extremely small group of voices.
Krekorian declined to
speak to the Weekly, and Krekorian continued to show an unusually thin skin over public critiquing of him:
An upset Krekorian spokesman for a second time complained that L.A. Weekly shouldn't be pressing the Burbank politician, in its coverage, over his carpetbagging, his bleak fiscal record as a leader in the budget debacles in the unpopular California State Legislature, and his frequent deserting of one political post to run for another.
Krekorian later told his gathered supporters last night that the results disproved those
who had tried to frame the race as him and Essel running as outsiders without
But candidate Pete Sanchez took away a lesson for Los Angeles activists who take on professional politicians: “We need to find one [activist] who will give
the best chance to beat the machine and unite behind that one candidate. … I will be thinking about
that more over the next few days, about how to fire up the voting public and
get them to take back their government.”
If Los Angeles election aftermaths are any guide, the same journalists who largely ignored this election will now self-confirm that L.A. voters are happy with big-money candidates who move into communities solely to run for office. After all, the results prove it.