Updated below, 3 p.m.: James can stay on the radio, as long as he doesn't talk about the campaign.
Talk radio host Kevin James kicked off his campaign for L.A. mayor this morning with a couple of shots at fellow contenders Austin Beutner and Rick Caruso.
James is a long shot, partly because it's not easy to make the leap from conservative talk radio to mayor of a liberal metropolis, but also because Beutner and Caruso already occupy the conservative, pro-business end of the political spectrum, and they have enough money to self-finance.
So after his rally at City Hall this morning, James set about drawing the contrast with his wealthier rivals.
“I bring a reality of what it's like to be a regular guy,” he said. “I do my own grocery shopping. I like to find a discount
on Southwest Airlines when I can find one.”
Like Caruso and Beutner — who have not announced — James wants to stimulate job growth by making the city more business-friendly. But James said he hasn't seen Caruso and Beutner “in the trenches” at neighborhood council meetings.
“I'm gonna raise every dollar I put into my campaign,” James said. “I dare Rick Caruso and Austin Beutner to raise all their money. I hope they do.”
James was surrounded this morning by supporters, including L.A. Clean Sweep founder Ron Kaye. But even Kaye seemed a little uncertain about how this will play out.
“I think he's a great guy,” Kaye said. “Can he win? I don't know… People tend to vote the name they know.”
Clean Sweep, which supported a slate of underfunded challengers for City Hall, got swept at the polls last week. James, a Clean Sweep supporter, said he planned to improve on that record by raising more money.
“Clean Sweep demonstrated that we can come together and play in their game,” James said. “I'm gonna have their support… [But] I have the time to raise the money we need to run a serious campaign.”
It sounds like a tall order. But before you write him off completely, consider Carmen Trutanich, an outsider who played upon disaffection with the “City Hall establishment” to win the 2009 race for city attorney.
D.A. Steve Cooley was key in lending legitimacy to Trutanich's campaign. And lo and behold, who but Steve Cooley showed up this morning to watch James' speech.
When James asked his supporters to gather for a group photo, however, Cooley turned in the other direction and walked away.
Update: Terry Fahey, general manager of KRLA, says there's no problem with James staying on the radio while he runs for office — so long as he doesn't talk about the mayor's race.
“I think we're fine, as long as he stays within the parameters the law requires,” Fahey said. “He can't talk about the election.”
John Thomas, James' consultant, said that won't affect the show, which airs from midnight to 3 a.m. every weeknight.
“He'll talk about the fiscal mess in L.A. He'll talk about the DWP. He'll talk about infrastructure,” Thomas said. “He can't sit there and use it as a campaign platform.”
Sounds like a tricky line to walk, but Thomas says it won't be a problem. James will have to go off the air once he qualifies as a candidate, about three months before the March 2013 election.
Update 2: Also, Councilwoman Jan Perry — who has been running for mayor unofficially for the last couple of years — made it semi-official on Tuesday by filing a notice with the L.A. City Ethics Commission.