With a new poll for the Los Angeles mayoral race in his back pocket, underdog candidate Emanuel Pleitez (pronounced “play-tez,” in case you were wondering) has come out swinging, telling rivals Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel that the Latino vote is “not for sale.”

Pleitez, whose mother is Mexican and father is Salvadoran, makes that statement after Garcetti saw a sizable, eight percent drop in support from Latino voters, according to recent Survey USA polls — from 35 percent in mid-January to 27 percent today. At the same time, Pleitez saw an increase in Latino support — from 7 percent to 13 percent, according to the same polls.

Garcetti, who is half Jewish, part Latino, and part Italian, has controversially pushed himself as a “Latino” candidate to the annoyance of such Latino political leaders as California Assembly Speaker John Perez — and, apparently, Pleitez, who appears to be eating into Garcetti's base.

Pleitez also included Greuel in his swipe after she opened a campaign office last Friday in Boyle Heights just weeks before the March 5 primary. With Greuel needing to win over Latino voters, Pleitez and Luz Montoya-Ruiz, a member of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, question the timing.

“I feel like they're mocking us,” says Montoya-Ruiz. “Out of nowhere comes a lady I have never seen come near this neighborhood before.”

“To me, it's insulting,” Pleitez tells L.A. Weekly. “What Garcetti and Greuel don't understand is that our people are intelligent and they're not for sale. That's my belief and it governs how I make decisions.”

He adds, “I think the polls show that our efforts over the last seven months are working. Garcetti's numbers are falling and mine are going up. I have the largest increase in the Latino community out of all of the candidates and now I'm about even with Gruel, Jan Perry, and Kevin James. I'm not a tourist in the Latino community, this is my life.”

Pleitez, a 30-year-old Stanford University graduate who worked for Goldman Sachs, the Obama Administration, and social network aggregator Spokeo, was born and raised by a single mother in poor and working-class neighborhoods in South Los Angeles and El Sereno. At Woodrow Wilson High School, he was a stand-out student and star athlete.

Pleitez and his staff have been headquartered in Boyle Heights since the early fall, working a grassroots campaign that focuses on reaching out to Latino voters in South L.A. and the Eastside.

In a press release about the Boyle Heights opening, Greuel says she's “building a grassroots campaign across the entire city” and making “sure that no part of the city is left behind.” She adds, “We need to talk to Angelenos in every part of Los Angeles.”

Among Latino voters in Los Angeles, according to Survey USA, Perry has 15 percent, Greuel has 14 percent, and James has 9 percent. Fifteen percent of Latino voters are undecided.

In the overall polling picture, Pleitez is still far behind Garcetti and Greuel and needs to make up major ground — according to Survey USA, Garcetti stands at 24 percent and Greuel 20 percent, with Pleitez at 7 percent. The top two winners of the primary will face each other in a May runoff.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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