Most elected Latino leaders who have announced a preference in the Los Angeles mayor’s race are lining up behind Wendy Greuel.
The latest endorsement came Monday from State Assembly Speaker John Perez, one of California’s most powerful Democrats.
“Wendy understands the needs of working people and of business owners alike, and can bring them together to rebuild our economy,” said Perez, who represents downtown L.A. in the Assembly. “Wendy will be a fighter for Angelenos across the city and she has my enthusiastic support.”
Perez brings a lot to Greuel’s campaign. He is a former union organizer closely tied to the powerful L.A. County Federation of Labor. He is one of the country’s most prominent openly gay elected officials. And he is the cousin of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
He joins L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina, Congressman-elect Tony Cardenas, State Senator Alex Padilla, United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta and a number of other Latino elected leaders in backing Greuel, the L.A. City Controller, over her chief rival Councilman Eric Garcetti.
“One Latino that isn’t endorsing Wendy is Eric Garcetti,” said Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman. He pointed out that Garcetti’s paternal grandparents were Mexican, and that his family grew up in Boyle Heights. Garcetti also speaks fluent Spanish.
“As a Latino, he has a very powerful connection to the community,” Millman said. “He doesn’t need surrogates.”
He also said that L.A. City Councilman Ed Reyes backs Garcetti, was well as a host of other prominent Latinos including former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, actress Salma Hayek, and Mexican American Bar Association President Rigoberto Arrechiga. One poll showed Garcetti leading Greuel among Latinos.
In an interview with KPCC, Speaker Perez at first said there was no Latino in the race. “There isn’t a Latino candidate running for mayor that I know of.”
Reminded of Garcetti’s heritage, Perez said this:
“His family emigrated from Italy to Mexico for a generation and then came to the U.S. But look, if he identifies as a Latino, that’s a wonderful thing for him.
A Garcetti campaign spokesperson said one great-grandparent orginally came from Italy, but reiterrated several generations from his father's side of the family came from Mexico.
Its worth noting that Perez called Garcetti and Councilwoman Jan Perry "good candidates," but considered Greuel superior. He also said his endorsement was not about ethnicity.
"This is about finding the best candidate we can find to run this city for the future."
Latinos will likely be about a quarter of voters in the March 5th mayoral primary. If no one candidate receives a majority of votes, the two two finishers will advance to a general election.
Polls show Greuel and Garcetti running about even in the mayor’s race. Each has raised nearly $3 million. Councilwoman Perry places third. Attorney and former talk show host Kevin James, the only Republican in the race, falls a distant fourth.
But polls have limited value at this stage in the campaign. Two-thirds of the voters remain undecided.
Correction and update: Updated to clarify Garcetti's Mexican heritage, and Latino backing. An earlier version of this story mispelled Dolores Huerta's first name. Thanks to our commenters for pointing out the error.