Represent!

Politics, government and public life for Southern California

LA Mayor’s Race: furious final weekend for Garcetti, Greuel

A get-out-the-vote schedule at the LA County Federation of Labor.
A get-out-the-vote schedule at the LA County Federation of Labor. Frank Stoltze

Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel face a final, frenetic weekend of campaigning in their contest to succeed Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

For Greuel, her labor allies will play a key role.

The head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor said Friday that hundreds of union volunteers would walk door-to-door and make phone calls for Greuel. The federation has one of the largest get-out-the-vote operations in California.

“We’re confident it’s going to be a historic moment because we’re going to elect our first woman mayor,” said Secretary-Treasurer Maria Elena Durazo.

But one union flier focuses more on money than gender. It suggests Greuel would push for a $15-an-hour minimum wage for all city workers. Greuel has said she’d fight for that amount for hotel workers only.

Durazo contended there is no ambiguity in the mailer and called reporters’ questions about the discrepancy “nit-picking.”

“The broader issue of poverty needs to be addressed," she said. "That’s what we should be debating here, not the specific words in a mailer.” Hotel workers surrounded Durazo as she spoke.

The latest poll shows Garcetti with a seven point lead over Greuel, with nine percent of likely voters undecided. Both campaigns have said Latino voters could play a decisive role in the race. The federation’s flier is in English and Spanish. It says “La Wendy will raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.”

At the federation’s headquarters, union activists prepared stacks of fliers for voting precincts across the city. One door flier features a picture of Greuel standing with President Bill Clinton, who’s endorsed her. Workers also bundled fliers for the federation’s chosen city council candidates.

Outside, a “Wendy Greuel for Mayor” banner hung on a fire truck. The truck belonged to the L.A. city firefighters union, which has endorsed Greuel. Union President Frank Lima got on the loudspeaker.

“Wendy Greuel for mayor,” he said. “Viva la Wendy!”

Not everyone was a union volunteer. The federation has hired the GroundWorks Campaigns to help mobilize volunteers and walk precincts.

Some unions broke with the federation and backed Garcetti, including the Longshore, Teachers and Teamsters unions.

“We’ve had hundreds of people working for Garcetti,” said Teamsters Political Director Ed Rendon. At the same time, he acknowledged many union activists were fatigued from last year’s fight over Proposition 32, which would have dramatically weakened labor unions.

“We really wiped out our volunteers in the fall,” he said. “But there’s high energy for this campaign – more than we thought.”

A spokesman for Greuel said more than 1,000 volunteers would make phone calls and walk precincts.

Garcetti campaign spokesman Jeff Millman said more than 5,000 volunteers would work for the candidate during the next four days. He called it an Obama-style effort.

Millman said volunteers tend to be more committed to candidates than paid staff, and more apt to convince a voter to support their candidate.

“There is a qualitative difference between using paid workers and folks who show up to volunteer on their own,” he said.

Over the airwaves, Garcetti may have an advantage this weekend. He had more cash on hand than Greuel going into the final days of the campaign and was able to buy more TV ads than she and her labor union allies combined, according to Millman.

While the campaigns will focus on high propensity voters from Chatsworth to San Pedro, they’ll pay special attention to African Americans. Black voters tend to participate more than other demographic groups.

Magic Johnson will hold a pancake breakfast for Greuel from 8am-10am Saturday at her Crenshaw Blvd. field office. Congresswoman Karen Bass will join a get-out-the-vote rally for Garcetti not far away.

Both candidates are expected to attend black church services Sunday, a long tradition the weekend before a mayoral election in Los Angeles.

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