Represent! | Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Los Angeles mayor’s race: In battle for African-American voters, Garcetti wins latest round

Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti is competing with City Controller Wendy Greuel for black support.
Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti is competing with City Controller Wendy Greuel for black support.

Los Angeles Mayor race 2013Wendy Greuel’s repeated references to her early work with the late Mayor Tom Bradley – the city’s towering African-American mayor in the 1970s and 80s – apparently only goes so far.

The New Frontier Democratic Club this week endorsed City Councilman Eric Garcetti for mayor. The club is comprised predominantly of African-American women.

“Eric embraces our city’s diversity and has the experience and vision to bring jobs and opportunity to L.A.’s most challenged neighborhoods,” New Frontier President Patt Sanders said in a statement. The vote was 71 to 22 in favor of Garcetti.

But there’s more to the decision.

The club’s political director, Dallas Fowler, cited attack ads by Greuel’s labor union allies against then-mayoral candidate Jan Perry during the primary. Those ads chastised Perry, who is African-American, for a personal bankruptcy filing two decades ago. Perry has blamed the bankruptcy on the business problems of her former husband.

“Most of our women members felt that was a low blow by Wendy,” Fowler said. She said other Democratic women also lobbied the group.

“We had several women who reached out from the Women’s Caucus [of the California Democratic Party] who were definitely highly upset.”

Garcetti needs all the help he can get with African-Americans. He won 14 percent of the black vote in the primary, according to an exit poll conducted by Loyola Marymount University's Center for the Study of Los Angeles. Greuel garnered 24 percent. Both are seeking the endorsement of Perry, who collected 56 percent of the African American vote. Blacks comprised about 12 percent of the electorate.

Fowler pointed to other reasons the club decided to back Garcetti, including his support of a Metro rail station in historically black Leimert Park.

What about Greuel’s connection to Bradley?

“That’s wonderful,” Fowler said. “No one dislikes Wendy. But Garcetti has a long history of working with the club.”

In a statement, Garcetti said: “The endorsement of the New Frontier Democratic Club brings to my campaign a powerful grassroots force in South L.A. and citywide.”

Greuel’s camp pointed out that she still has the backing of key African-American leaders.

"Wendy Greuel is proud of her wide ranging support from some of Los Angeles' top African-American leaders and groups, including Rev. Dr. Cecil 'Chip' Murray, Bishop Charles E. Blake, and Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer,” spokesman Dave Jacobson said in a statement.

It’s worth noting religious leaders often wield considerable clout among black voters in Los Angeles. Their decision to withdraw support from Mayor Jim Hahn in 2005 after Hahn dismissed then-LAPD Chief Bernard Parks, who is African-American, contributed to Hahn’s loss to Antonio Villaraigosa.