Any remaining doubt that the Los Angeles city attorney's race in Tuesday's primary has narrowed to two candidates was removed Saturday as voters began receiving campaign mailers in which City Controller James Hahn and Lisa Specht took turns swiping at each other.
Hahn, working to avoid a June 4 runoff, also began a final television blitz by pointing out that Specht has never prosecuted criminals in her nine-year legal career.
And a Hahn campaign mailer sent to about 150,000 households pointed out that Hahn was endorsed last week by two candidates, deputy city attorneys Betsy Mogul and Charles Zinger, who withdrew from the race. The mailer also points out Specht's lack of prosecution experience.
Aimed at Black Area
Campaign slate mailers partly financed by Specht, meanwhile, began arriving Saturday in the predominantly black South-Central Los Angeles area. They pointed out that Controller Hahn is not popular County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, who represents the heavily Democratic area. Controller Hahn is the supervisor's son.
The mailer also pointed out that the younger Hahn has received the backing of "far-right Republican Party Chairman Mike Antonovich." Antonovich, a conservative member of the county Board of Supervisors who chairs the state GOP Central Committee, has said that he has not endorsed Controller Hahn, a Democrat. But at a recent fund-raiser, Antonovich did single out Hahn for praise.
All of this weekend activity takes on special significance because of the unprecedented series of events last week that transformed a wide-open five-way battle into a two-way struggle between Hahn and Specht. In addition to Mogul and Zinger, a third candidate, Murray Kane, threw in the towel Friday and also endorsed Hahn.
Impact Not Clear
How the city attorney race has been changed by the unexpected candidate withdrawals is unclear to the Specht and Hahn strategists. But Hahn's staff is treating Tuesday as if it were the showdown that they had expected June 4.
Unless a candidate receives more than 50% of Tuesday's vote, the top two finishers will square off in the June general election.
Hahn campaign manager Joe Trippi said Saturday that after last week's developments, the number of undecided voters almost doubled practically overnight. Hahn's polling had shown about 13% undecided before the candidates began withdrawing. But the undecided factor shot up to nearly 25% after Mogul, Zinger and Kane dropped out, he said.
Trippi said voters are apparently learning that the race has been reduced to Specht and Hahn, even though the names of all five original candidates will remain on the ballot. Kane had been receiving about 7% support in Hahn's polling Thursday night, but that support fell to nothing by Friday night, hours after Kane announced his withdrawal.
Specht campaign consultant Michael Berman said Saturday that he remains confident that Specht will force a runoff, but he acknowledged that last week's surprises muddy the picture. For one thing, Berman said, the Specht campaign had expected Kane, Mogul and Zinger to receive a combined total of 15% to 20% of Tuesday's vote. Now that the three candidates have dropped out, their electoral support will probably be 10% or less, he said.
Appeal on Television
On the campaign's final weekend, Specht was running one television commercial featuring an editorial endorsement by The Times and dispatching campaign mailers tailored to different voting constituencies. In all, Specht--heavily backed by the Westside Democratic political organization headed by Reps. Henry Waxman and Howard Berman--will have pumped almost $400,000 into television.
The Hahn campaign expects to match Specht's $400,000 total television outlay, but nearly half of that was spent before Specht launched her TV campaign March 22. In the last two weeks, Specht has outspent Hahn on television by a 2-1 margin.
In recent days, however, helped by a heavy influx of loans and contributions from Hahn's father and from many close political allies and developers, the Hahn campaign has raised several hundred thousand dollars for the final push.
Each campaign expects to spend about $700,000 in the primary.