City Beat editorial
Los Angeles CityBeat Editorial
What exactly is the difference, really? Both Mayor James Hahn and Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa can be categorized as moderate-to-liberal Democrats, with many shared policy ideas and attitudes about the City of Los Angeles. They are more alike in their beliefs than not. We could have worse choices. But the mayor’s office remains in ethical disarray, and the challenger has momentum. What is an incumbent left to do but go negative? Very negative. Again.
That was the scene this week at Cal State Northridge during the first one-on-one debate between the two candidates in the mayoral runoff. Hahn’s administration is currently the subject of ongoing local and federal investigations into the lingering “pay-to-play” scandal, but it was the mayor who went on the attack in the name of integrity. He did so without hesitation or apology, noting his challenger’s various broken promises and bringing up yet again Villaraigosa’s letter asking President Clinton to pardon a convicted drug dealer. Even Villaraigosa seemed momentarily stunned by Hahn’s ferocity. This election is not going to be won easily – by either side.
Some observers like to suggest similarities between this race and the final showdown between Tom Bradley and incumbant Sam Yorty in 1973. But where those two city titans had many ideological and political differences – heightened by issues of race and inclusion – the things that separate Hahn and Villaraigosa are more subtle. Villaraigosa is well-connected in the Democratic Party and a more dynamic personality, while Hahn has used his experience as being part of a local political dynasty to make some unpopular decisions.
Most telling, perhaps, is how they’ve dealt with ethical questions. While Villaraigosa has expressed regret over his request of a presidential pardon for Carlos Vignali a decade ago – a story that grows older and less relevant by the day – Hahn has yet to fully explain or apologize for the currently unfolding ethical lapses around his administration. The mayor has not been charged with any crime or even implicated in one. But as the leader of the city government, he surely bears some responsibility for the problems that already have led to embarrassing investigations into members of his inner circle. Villaraigosa has assumed responsibility for his acts and moved on to work a positive agenda. It’s up to the mayor to do the same, or risk making our choice this election much easier.
Chief Parker's perspective: I don't mind campaigns that point out differences, policy differences, but today i read on Joe Scott's blog (former Tom Bradley press secretary) who comes to the conclusion that Hahn has begun his negative campaign. Not pointing out policy differences, but using "code" language for racist voters in this City. Hahn is using it, endorsing it and pushing that language to greater lengths than previously thought. I urge all supporters of Hahn to make sure that if there are policy differences, go for it, point it out. But using racist language that Jim Hahn has started to use is not tolerable or accepted.