Voters in the Los Angeles area have seen quite a few elections this year. We had our regularly scheduled municipal elections this Spring, as well as a municipal general in certain races that had to go to a runoff. Along the way, we’ve had a special primary and a special general to fill the Senate seat in SD-26 that was vacated by Mark Ridley-Thomas’ ascent to the Board of Supervisors. That election was won by Assemblyman Curren Price, whose seat in AD-51 was then taken by Steve Bradford in yet another special election (thankfully, he got 51% in the primary ballot, avoiding a runoff and getting a new Assemblyman as quickly as possible). In between all of that, we had the May 19th special election, as well as the special Congressional election in CA-32 to fill the vacancy created by Hilda Solis’ confirmation as Secretary of Labor.
And now, residents of Los Angeles are on to their final special election of the year–though maybe not the cycle. Today, voters in certain communities in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles will decide who they want representing them on the City Council, as their former Councilmember Wendy Greuel was elected as City Controller.
And believe it or not, this race has statewide implications. As you can see from the fundraising numbers, there are three top-tier candidates in the race: Chris(tine) Essel, who is a former Paramount Studios executive turned community activist; Tamar Galatzan, who represents a school board district that overlaps substantially with the Council District; and Assemblymember Paul Krekorian from AD-43, about 20% of the population of which are also residents of Council District 2. If Krekorian makes it through to the primary and then wins on the 8th, we’ll have a special election next year to fill AD-43, which will be vacant until then (leaving us with one less seat in the Assembly until then).
It is widely expected that there will be a runoff, as the bulk of the votes in this low-turnout election will be split between these three candidates, and there are 7 other candidates in the race that will siphon off a significant number of ballots among them–the runoff will take place September 8th.
Being as objective as I can (I am the political director of an organization that has endorsed Tamar Galatzan), here are the strengths and weaknesses (as I see them) of each candidate:
Chris Essel: Essel has a lot of money, but not a lot of name recognition. She has never held elected office, which can be (and has been) a good marketing point, but also means that the 4X4 voters who will decide this election will not be as familiar with her as with the other candidates. Essel has gotten the endorsement of the Los Angeles Times, and has been able to pay for quite a bit of literature, based on conversations I’ve had with contacts in other campaigns, as well as a TV spot. Essel also has the endorsement of the former Councilmember, Wendy Greuel. On the downside, I’ve heard that Essel doesn’t have all that strong a volunteer base and has been having to use paid canvassers.
Paul Krekorian: Krekorian has a lot of things going for him. He is well known to a significant section of the district, has good fundraising to pay for mailers and such and has some good endorsements, including the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. On the downside, the State Assembly isn’t the most popular body in the country right now. In addition, Krekorian has been attacked by other campaigns for not being a resident of the district until recently–not that that line of attack was successful for those seeking to stop Garamendi from getting the nomination in CD-10, but perhaps a City Council race will feature a different dynamic.
Tamar Galatzan: Galatzan is weaker in fundraising than the other candidates, but has some advantages. First, she might have better name recognition than the other candidates because more residents of the district have voted for her than for anyone else, given the extensive overlap between her school board district and Council District 2. She also has the endorsement of the L.A. Daily News and one of the local community papers. From what I’ve seen and heard, both Galatzan and Krekorian have had a good ground game so far, and Galatzan has been doing well in recent media appearances–even according to sources I’ve mentioned previously who have no love for her or her campaign. On the downside, less money means less mail, which is the usual way one wins races like this.
So who wins? Well, the real question is, which two of the three is going to go to the runoff, given the fact that it will be a major shock if one of the lesser seven somehow manages to pull it off without a substantial campaign. My prediction?
Krekorian in first, with Galatzan barely beating Essel for slot 2. I do think that a good field campaign, volunteer operation, and name recognition from previous campaigns matter, especially when the electorate consists of the most politically active and savvy voters. In my heart, I would also like to believe that elections can’t be won with a rolodex, even at the local level.
I’ll be posting an open thread with the results soon after they close.