The race between two former friends for L.A.'s 14th District City Council seat has turned even more bitter. Over the weekend, a top aide to incumbent Jose Huizar wrote in an e-mail that his campaign would put a “political bullet” in Huizar’s opponent.
Politics can be rough on L.A.’s Eastside. The e-mail takes it to a new level – and it comes amid concerns about violent political imagery after last month’s shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
In that e-mail, Huizar campaign manager Michael Trujillo wrote that the campaign would, among other actions, “put a political bullet between Rudy Martinez’ forehead.” It describes Martinez, Huizar's opponent, as “a disgusting human being that needs to be sent back from the vile bag of tripe he emanated from.”
Trujillo was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying his email was "tongue in cheek."
But Huizar’s campaign strategist Parke Skelton immediately saw it as liability for the campaign.
“When I saw it on Sunday, I immediately terminated Mr. Trujillo," Skelton said. "We’ve apologized to Mr. Martinez for the email and he’s accepted the apology.”
Martinez, a restaurant owner and former TV host, said the e-mail shook him. He said it brought back memories of the death of his brother, who was shot to death two decades ago.
“It rehashed some open feelings of what had happened some time ago. It was pretty upsetting," Martinez said. "I’m a pretty strong man and when you start crying and thinking about your safety – it definitely struck a chord.”
Huizar was unavailable for comment. He canceled a campaign event Monday.
The incumbent's troubles don't end with the e-mail from his campaign manager. Huizar faces a district attorney’s inquiry into work he performed for a labor union when he was a school board member.
But his opponent faces a separate DA investigation – this one into Martinez' political contributions. He also faces questions about why he possessed the badge of a slain police officer when he worked as an LAPD reserve cop.
The two candidates face each other in a debate Tuesday at the Center for the Arts in Eagle Rock.
The debate starts at 7 p.m.