DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - For those who follow city elections, the most interesting thing outside of actual vote counting is money raising. The cash game is even more intriguing when the actual balloting is months away.
That is the situation right now. Although Angelenos won’t head to the polls to pick a mayor, city attorney, controller, eight council reps, most valuable princess and three school board members (I made at least one of those up) until March 2013, money is speeding faster than Usain Bolt in the 100 meter finals.
The latest financial figures, which campaigns are required to file with the City Ethics Commission, went up at the end of last month (they cover the period through June 30). Parsing the numbers, one finds a boatload of things that make the 2013 election cycle interesting. It’s not just the mayoral contest either, as the money revelations spill all down the ticket. Here are some of the most fascinating financial findings.
Eric Leads! So Does Wendy!: Councilman Eric Garcetti reported raising $2,209,453.65. City Controller Wendy Greuel finished with $2,209,131.34. That’s a difference of just $322 (and 31 cents!), which pretty much makes them twinsies. How you can have this much money raised and be so close in the count is bewildering. Really, the only way to explain it is dumb luck or witchcraft. I’m hoping that one day we learn it was the latter.
Don’t Count Out Jan: Some will tsk tsk Councilwoman Jan Perry for having only $1.16 million to date. That would be foolish, because the mayor is the one who gets the most votes, not the person who piles up the most pennies. Greuel and Garcetti will have more money to spend on mailers, TV ads and donkeys carrying banners (one can dream), but Perry is likely to have enough cash to wage an effective campaign. Remember, the goal in March is not to get a majority of the votes but to cobble together enough to make the May runoff. Perry’s target audience in the primary is different than that of Garcetti and Greuel, who are pursuing many of the same constituents. She’s got enough money to be a factor.
Hey Big Spenders: The most expensive mayor’s race of the millennium occurred in 2001, when 13 candidates raised a cumulative $20.8 million and spent $26 million (the excess comes from fun things like matching funds and debt). About 88% of the money raised went to four people: Antonio Villaraigosa, Jim Hahn (who won), businessman Steve Soboroff and Councilman Joel Wachs. Of that, about $15.6 million poured in for the primary.
Already, the 2013 posse has raised a total of $7.7 million. To get a sense of how the leaders are faring, consider 2005: In the primary, Villaraigosa, who would go on to win, pulled in $2.23 million. In other words, Greuel and Garcetti had almost reached the Villaraigosa level with more than 240 fundraising days to go.
The financial figures will skyrocket if Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky ever gets off his cloud and enters the race. The same holds true for mall master Rick Caruso.
In the 2005 two-month runoff period, AnVil and Hahn spent a staggering $7.94 million combined, up from $6.75 million four years earlier (after the primary, runoff finalists get to reload and hit up their past campaign donors). There’s no reason to expect less money this year.
That $26 million? That’s so 2001.
Can Kobe Cover It?: Kobe Bryant earned about $25 million playing basketball last year, and he’ll make $27.8 million in the upcoming season. Yep, one NBA player’s salary could cover more than two years of political campaigning for the most important elected office in the city.
No, I didn’t include this section just for the Google hits that come with writing “Kobe Bryant.” If that was my goal, I’d have typed “sex with Kim Kardashian.”
Question of Control: Three things I know about Dennis Zine: 1) He likes the letter Z, 2) He sometimes dresses as a woman, and 3) His competitors in the City Controller’s race have enough money to make things sticky.
Zine’s a quirky character, a motorcycle-riding-cop-turned-councilman who raises funds for charity by becoming his alter-ego, Denise. His dating habits could become fodder in a muddy campaign — a few years back he had to recuse himself from an airport contract vote because he was romantically linked to a lobbyist for one of the bidders. One (and by one I mean me) wonders if his official campaign song will be LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It.”
Zine’s $540,000 raised gives him an advantage in the race for the seat being vacated by Greuel, but the $232,000 picked up by Ron Galperin and Cary Brazeman’s $143,000 put both of them in the game. Zine has to be considered the frontrunner, but frontrunners don’t always finish first. Or second. Just ask third-place D.A. finisher Carmen Trutanich.
Money Well Spent?: Joe Buscaino assumed the 15th District Council seat in January, after winning a special election to fill the post vacated by Janice Hahn. He’s on the ballot again in March, and so far has raised $119,000. He has shelled out $62,000.
The best part? He has spent all that money even though he is running unopposed. I hope the cash helps him beat the imaginary candidates. Maybe afterwards he can use whatever is left over for an imaginary party.
The Farmacy Makes an Appearance: Another shoo-in is incumbent 11th District Councilman Bill Rosendahl. By June 30 he had raised $136,000 and spent $49,000, including $466 that went to Bill Leahy, who is identified on expense documents as the owner of The Farmacy. The Farmacy happens to be a Venice medical marijuana clinic, and Rosendahl recently drew attention for revealing that he uses medical marijuana and is battling cancer. So, is this where he gets his kush?
Also interesting on the Rosendahl front: His one competitor, who has yet to report raising any money, is the brilliantly named Odysseus Bostick. This is the only person who has ever reminded me, simultaneously, of Homer and Rocky Horror Picture Show actor Barry Bostwick.
First in the First: One of the most heated City Council races will be for the First District seat, where current officeholder Ed Reyes’ chief of staff Jose Gardea is battling state Assemblyman Gil Cedillo. Though the latter has more name recognition and plenty of Sacramento ties, Gardea is smashing him in money raised. By June 30 Cedillo had $113,000. Gardea, meanwhile, claimed $193,000, and his cash on hand was $178,000, compared to his counterpart’s $91,000. Still, this one ain’t close to over.
Plead the Ninth: The race to fill Perry’s Ninth District council seat could turn into a smash-up derby, with at least five people capable of raising real money. The surprising leader to date is LAPD Deputy Chief Terry Hara, who has sucked up $118,000, with ample support from the Japanese-American community. He’s got a big lead over José Huizar’s former chief of staff, Ana Cubas, who has $51,353, and Assemblyman Mike Davis, whose $50,005 includes, according to Ethics documents, a $15,000 loan from… Mike Davis! Which goes to prove, the only thing better than having wealthy friends is being your own wealthy friend.
Contact Jon Regardie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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