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File photo: Jose Huizar at a news conference to oppose Proposition 54 outside Garfield High School September 8, 2003 in Los Angeles.
The two men vying to represent the 14th City Council District in Los Angeles faced off in a debate last night. They once were close friends, but now businessman Rudy Martinez wants to unseat incumbent Jose Huizar. The race has been marked by fireworks, but last night was relatively subdued.
The debate started with an apology. The apology came from Councilman Huizar, whose campaign manager had sent an e-mail to staff saying the campaign would put a “political bullet” through Martinez’ forehead, and calling Martinez “a disgusting human being that needs to be sent back from the vile bag of tripe he emanated from.”
“I want to apologize to my opponent Rudy Martinez," said Huizar. "I want to apologize to his campaign and I want to apologize to his mother.”
Huizar’s since fired his campaign manager. Both men agreed to stop trading negative attacks and focus on the issues.
They did that at last night's debate – and there is no bigger issue facing Los Angeles than its budget deficit.
Councilman Huizar told a packed crowd at the Art Center in Eagle Rock that you want someone who knows his way around City Hall representing you right now.
“For the next couple of years," said Huizar, "you need someone experienced like myself that sat on the budget and finance committee, knows where the money is, to make sure we deliver.”
Martinez, who once hosted the TV show "Flip This House" on A&E and owns a sushi restaurant, said he has the business know-how to handle a big budget deficit. “I am the most innovative person I have met," said Martinez. "And I’ll tell you one thing, if you give me a challenge, and every challenge I’ve had, I will fix it.”
Martinez also vowed to clean up the 14th Council District's Eagle Rock area by going after massage parlors – apparently there are 35 in the area – as well as street vendors and swap meets.
Martinez has pumped $200,000 into his own campaign, so he has the resources to mount a serious challenge to the incumbent councilman. Huizar has also made some stumbles – the L.A. Times reported he once made power lists of hundreds of influential people in his district and whether they supported him, and he faces a district attorney’s investigation into his work on a labor union contract.
Martinez has his own troubles – questions over his possession of a replica of a police badge of a slain LAPD officer when he was a reserve cop. The advantage still goes to Huizar, who has much better name recognition and has more money – about $340,000 for the March 8 election.