After receiving a disappointing 42% of the vote in last week's primary election and being forced into her second consecutive runoff with Michael Woo, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Peggy Stevenson has fired her campaign managers.
Stevenson is replacing Jill Barad and Larry Levine, the Sherman Oaks political consultants who directed her primary campaign, with Allan Hoffenblum. A spokeswoman said Stevenson is "looking for a new direction and feels confident that Mr. Hoffenblum will be able to provide it."
Hoffenblum, a former California Republican party political director, said he expects Stevenson to work hard to retain her seat. Hoffenblum said the 61-year-old Stevenson will wage a grass-roots campaign, adding that he will encourage the two-term councilwoman to get out and "meet as many voters as possible."
The campaign consultant said he hoped to avoid "bombarding" 13th District voters with political mailers in the days leading up to the June 4 election. "I think that most of the voters are aware of the candidates," Hoffenblum said. The job is going to be "identifying the voters . . . and getting them out to the polls."
Too Many Challengers?
Hoffenblum refused to critique the primary campaign strategy of Barad and Levine. Barad, however, said she was pleased with the campaign (which saw Stevenson frequently appearing before senior citizens groups) and had expected to be retained for the general election. Stevenson's problem from the outset was that she faced too many challengers, Barad maintained.
"It was a difficult race," Barad said. "She had a lot going against her. Five candidates filed against her . . . and three of them were well-financed. We all knew from our polling that it was going to be a squeaker one way or another."
Stevenson last week blamed the low voter turnout--36%--for her poor showing in the April 9 election. But Woo, who received nearly 35% of the vote in his second run for Stevenson's seat (he was handily defeated in the 1981 general election), said the outcome showed that voters in the Hollywood-Silver Lake-Echo Park area are ready for a change.
"It's clear from looking at the election results that Peggy Stevenson's beatable," said Woo, an aide to state Sen. David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles). "What we're doing is putting together a strategy that will allow us to get that 50% plus one that we need to win the election."
'Act of Desperation'
Woo called Stevenson's decision to change campaign managers a "clear act of desperation." He added, however, that the change would have no bearing on his strategy of walking precincts and "reaching out" to community groups. Woo has received the support of third-place finisher Michael Linfield, a community activist who received about 13% of the vote, and said he is hoping to win an endorsement from fourth-place finisher Arland (Buzz) Johnson, who won about 11% of the vote.
The 33-year-old challenger, on a leave of absence from his job, has been campaigning since the day after the primary. Stevenson has yet to begin her campaign, but Hoffenblum said the councilwoman plans to get moving as quickly as possible. "She worked awfully hard in the primary from what I've been told," Hoffenblum said. "And she'll be very visible in this campaign."
Woo is expected to issue his first post-primary campaign challenge to Stevenson this week. Campaign manager Harvey Englander said Woo will challenge Stevenson to weekly debates from now until the election. Hoffenblum said he had not heard the proposal but predicted that Stevenson would suggest an alternative of one or two debates sponsored by public groups.
And while the tenor of the race has yet to approach the bitter level of 1981, both sides are indicating that personalities will once again play a large role in the campaign. Stevenson, whose last effort against Woo included anti-Asian political literature, has labeled the challenger "a puppet of Sacramento and Westside political machines." Englander called Stevenson a "nice lady who doesn't care anymore."