Los Angeles mayoral candidate Emanuel Pleitez is on a roll. He announced Wednesday that on New Year's Eve he crossed the $150,000 threshold in fundraising and now qualifies for city matching funds. Thursday night, he’ll participate in his first debate with the major mayoral candidates.
Pleitez, 30, will take the stage with City Controller Wendy Greuel, City Council Members Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry, and former federal prosecutor and one-time conservative radio host Kevin James.
Pleitez said he’s raised $210,000, and that about $160,000 of it is eligible for matching funds. That means the city will write him a check for about $320,000.
Under L.A.’s matching fund rules, the city doubles every dollar candidates raise from individuals, up to $500 from any one person.
Pleitez was born and raised in East L.A., and says the city needs a mayor who knows the struggles of the working poor: “There are a lot of people hurting right now, and there are a lot of people who want a mayor who can understand their pain and their frustrations.”
Pleitez said his mother was pregnant with him when she emigrated from Mexico. She works in the cafeteria at Wilson High School, his alma mater. Pleitez said she never married his father, with whom he’s had little contact.
Now, Pleitez is a Stanford University graduate who worked on President Obama’s transition team in 2008. He's also worked at Goldman Sachs, and as chief strategy officer at the Pasadena-based tech company Spokeo. He also chairs the boards of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and the Salvadoran American Leadership and Educational Fund. (His father is from El Salvador.)
Pleitez ran for political office before, vying for the San Gabriel Valley congressional seat now held by Judy Chu — when he was 26.
Until now, Pleitez has been left out of mayoral debates. His supporters staged a noisy walkout at the last televised debate.
"My campaign represents the underserved communities that other campaigns and elected officials ignore,” Pleitez said in a statement. “At the protest, I said that our voices can't be silenced. It was true then, and now we have the money to prove it.”
A spokesperson for the organizers of Thursday’s debate, CivicCare, said they invited Pleitez even before he raised enough money to qualify for city matching funds.
“We want to help increase grassroots campaigning in addition to the model of only those with money have a voice,” CivicCare’s Mary Cohen said. The debate is at 7 p.m. at Beth Jacob Temple in Beverly Hills.
Pleitez said he’s been invited to at least ten more debates in the run-up to the March 5th primary election. Many invitations came after the protest, he said. Pleitez is hoping the exposure will win him support.
“I’m running because I was uninspired and unimpressed by the candidates who were in the race,” Pleitez said. “Los Angeles deserves more.”