Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Los Angeles city attorney candidates trade jabs at Hollywood debate

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Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, who is seeking a second four-year term, blasted his challengers during a debate inside the ballroom of the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood Thursday night.

“We’re talking about the Meg Whitman of candidates,” Trutanich said of attorney Greg Smith, who has poured $620,000 of his own money into his campaign. Whitman spent $144 million of her fortune on her losing 2010 campaign for governor.

“Thanks for comparing me to Meg Whitman,” Smith replied. “If I had a fraction of her money, I wouldn’t be here.”

Smith, who often represents LAPD officers who sue the city over workplace conditions, said he’s been forced to fund his own campaign because he is a “political outsider.”

Trutanich also assailed his other main opponent in the race, former State Assemblyman Mike Feuer.

“When Mr. Feuer was in Sacramento, his budget solution was to release prisoners to balance the budget, to cut school funding to balance the budget.”

Feuer said Trutanich was distorting his record, and accused the city attorney of misplaced priorities.

“Ticket scalpers and street artists get a lot of focus instead of the neighborhood prosecutor program, which needs to be revitalized,” Feuer said.

Often, an incumbent like Trutanich would have little trouble winning reelection. But political analysts say the city attorney’s support has eroded, in part because of his failed campaign for the countywide job of district attorney last year – after promising he would serve two terms in his current job.

Four years ago, the powerful labor union that represents rank and file LAPD officers spent more than $700,000 to help Trutanich get elected. This year, it’s opted to remain silent during the primary election.

Trutanich trails Feuer and Smith in fundraising. Two other candidates – Attorney Noel Weiss and Eduardo Angeles, an assistant city attorney, have raised little or no money.

Weiss attended Thursday night’s debate, touting himself as the candidate who “wants to empower the little guy” and be a better “watchdog” over city land use issues.

The race has attracted little attention so far. Barely 100 people attended the debate.

If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the March 5 primary, the top two finishers compete in a May runoff election.

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