According to the conventional wisdom, Zev Yaroslavsky is the presumptive front-runner in the race to be the next mayor of Los Angeles.
But a private poll, the results of which were obtained by the L.A. Weekly, turns that wisdom on its head.
The poll shows Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel in a dead heat, with Yaroslavsky trailing slightly behind.
The poll was commissioned by Harvey Englander, a well respected
political consultant who is not aligned with any of the candidates.
Englander declined to release the results to the media, but they have
been making the rounds in L.A. political circles over the past several
Englander also declined to comment after the Weekly obtained the results from another source. This is the first time they've been publicly reported.
As always with private polls, there are plenty of caveats to consider. For one thing, we don't know the methodology. Is this registered voters, likely voters, or what? In a mayoral election, which will have low turnout, there's a big difference. Also: We're still 16 months from the primary election. A poll at this stage doesn't predict anything.
"Early surveys are interesting, but most of the insiders don't take 'em too seriously," said Allan Hoffenblum, publisher of the California Target Book. "It's a name-ID thing at this point."
That said, this is still better than relying solely on fundraising totals to figure out who's up and who's down. So with all the grains of salt accounted for, let's dig in. We've got four scenarios to consider. Let's start with what seems most likely at the moment -- Yaroslavsky runs for mayor, but mall magnate Rick Caruso opts out.
Jan Perry 5
Austin Beutner 2
We're told that 900 people were surveyed, which would put the margin of error at 3-4%.
So Yaroslavsky is trailing, but within the margin of error of the two leaders -- making this a three-way contest.
It's also not surprising to see Austin Beutner, the former jobs czar, at 2%. But that doesn't mean he'll stay there. The campaign hasn't started, and he'll be able to buy as much name identification as he needs when the time comes.
Now, let's see what happens if Rick Caruso gets in. That seems to stir things up a bit:
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Caruso's presence appears to take votes away from Greuel and Yaroslavsky. For some reason, it also seems to boost Garcetti.
Keep in mind too, as long as we're hedging, that "undecided" is the runaway winner in all of these scenarios. So it's too early to take any of this very seriously, but it's still interesting.
Now, what if Yaroslavsky decides not to run? Only he seems to know what's in his mind at the moment. If he opts out, then it becomes more clearly a two-person race between Garcetti and Greuel.
So all that Yaroslavsky vote seems to get distributed between Greuel and Garcetti, with none going to Caruso, Perry or Beutner.
Lastly, with Yaroslavsky out, what if Caruso also decides not to run? That doesn't seem to change the complexion of the race all that much.
Caruso's supporters go back to being undecided. Or maybe they vote for radio host Kevin James, who wasn't included in this poll.
Either way, it leaves Greuel and Garcetti undisturbed in the top two spots.
If there's a takeaway from this, it's that Garcetti and Greuel seem to hold their own in a name-ID battle with Zev Yaroslavsky.
In Greuel's case, she ran citywide in 2009, and spent $1.5 million to get her name out. So it makes sense that she'd still be strong.
Garcetti's never run citywide before. He is the president of the City Council, so that counts for something. But it would also be reasonable to assume that some of his strength comes from his father, former D.A. Gil Garcetti. Who knows what happens when people figure out that Gil Garcetti is not running for mayor.
As for Yaroslavsky, it has been several decades since he had a competitive race. Also, the Board of Supervisors doesn't get as much coverage as the City of L.A. So it's not a huge surprise that he's not crushing the field at this point.
Asked for comment, Yaroslavsky's longtime political adviser, Rick Taylor, said it was difficult to assess the poll without seeing more details. "It's great conversation, but it's hard to respond to conversation," Taylor said.