The election of Carmen Trutanich as Los Angeles City Attorney signals more than the arrival of a newcomer to city politics. It marks the defeat of one of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's closest allies. KPCC's Frank Stoltze reports that an anti-Villaraigosa sentiment was clearly in evidence during the campaign.
Frank Stoltze: The man behind the campaign of Carmen Trutanich was Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley – who first encouraged the one-time prosecutor-turned-defense-attorney to run.
Steve Cooley: Hopefully this is a little earthquake to let them know that the machine is not going to dominate the city – that it's not a puppet and a puppeteer.
Stoltze: During Trutanich's election night party, Cooley referred to City Councilman Jack Weiss – and his biggest backer.
Cooley: Talking about Mayor Villaraigosa and the way he's managing this city. He thinks it's all his. It's not. It belongs to the citizens, and so I think it's a good check and balance.
Stoltze: The office of city attorney is non-partisan. So are the offices of mayor and district attorney. But it's worth noting that Cooley is a Republican, and Villaraigosa and Weiss are Democrats. Trutanich, who's registered "declined to state", has said that "business as usual is over at City Hall."
Asked to respond to Cooley's comments, Villaraigosa declined. On the morning after the election, he sought to mend fences with the man who'll serve in one of the most powerful positions in city government.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: I particularly want to acknowledge the victory of Carmen Trutanich – who ran a great campaign. I spoke to him last night, talked to him about working with him in the future. We both agreed that we will work very well into the future.
Stoltze: Fernando Guerra heads the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University. He says the defeat of the mayor's ally could adversely affect his expected run for governor next year.
Fernando Guerra: Now that there is a city attorney who's not necessarily in his camp and he's out and about throughout the state – that could cause trouble. And then, also, why does his endorsement not resonate to the degree that it does?
Stoltze: While he believes Villaraigosa remains popular, Guerra says it's not just the Weiss defeat that could signal trouble for a gubernatorial run.
Guerra: This isn't 2005 when he was on the cover of Time Magazine. This is 2009 with an economic meltdown and a political meltdown following that.
Stoltze: All elected officials, Guerra says, are subject to the wrath of voters. At Weiss's election night party, the mayor's supporters were out in force. Eric Bauman heads the L.A. County Democratic Party.
Eric Bauman: People want to say "Oh my goodness, well if Jack Weiss doesn't win tonight, that's the end of Antonio Villaraigosa's political future." This is a guy who's charismatic and people smile at and people feel really good about. And I think his future is dependent on what he does as mayor – not on whether he's able to elect somebody to the city attorney's office.
Stoltze: Nearby, Weiss campaign strategist Ace Smith looked weary. He'd been the architect of a highly negative campaign that didn't work. The usually victorious Smith is also Villaraigosa's top political strategist – and he'd oversee any campaign the mayor launches for the governor's mansion.