Democratic Assemblyman Richard Alatorre has lined up a team of campaign and fund-raising consultants in Los Angeles and Sacramento in hopes of capturing the Eastside seat on the Los Angeles City Council that has eluded a Latino for more than 20 years.
So sure are Alatorre's supporters that he will succeed in his quest that his longtime friend, powerful Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, during the closing session of the Legislature Saturday morning, lauded Alatorre in a "farewell" speech, as if the 13-year Assembly veteran had the council job already.
But an immediate roadblock remains to this flurry of planning--the question of whether incumbent Arthur K. Snyder intends to resign from office as promised by the end of this month. What Alatorre can do hinges first on what Snyder does. And when people in City Hall nowadays speak of Snyder and ask "does he or doesn't he?" they aren't asking about the nature of his red hair.
Snyder, who has represented the largely Latino 14th District since 1967, announced in January his plans to retire. He made his announcement in the midst of allegations that he molested his young daughter several years ago. Snyder said at the time that his pregnant wife's health, not the allegations, were the primary reason he would leave office July 1.
Since his announcement, however, things have changed: Snyder's wife miscarried, Snyder said he would delay his resignation until September, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office decided not to file criminal charges against the councilman, and hundreds of supporters turned out at a July City Council meeting urging Snyder not to resign. Snyder then expressed ambivalence about leaving office, but he said this week that he will resign "relatively soon."
There is now speculation among Eastside politicians and activists over whether Snyder has agreed to endorse Alatorre as his successor, an action that would be a significant boost to Alatorre's hopes.
Alatorre, whose own Assembly district includes parts of Pasadena, Highland Park, Lincoln Heights, El Sereno and Eagle Rock, and overlaps part of the 14th Council District, decided in January to seek Snyder's seat.
If Alatorre became the first Latino council member in more than 20 years, he would be the object of much media attention that, his supporters hope, would leave him in a better position to run for mayor or Congress later.
Snyder's endorsement of Alatorre would be the first step toward that goal. Snyder is not talking, but Alatorre acknowledges that he has spoken with Snyder about his endorsement. "Certainly, I've asked him," Alatorre said. "I'm optimistic."
Alatorre said Snyder, an attorney, told him he "wants to do lawyering and lobbying" after he leaves office. "I'm sure he wants to have a decent relationship with the incoming councilman," Alatorre added. "All indications are that I will be the next councilman."
Lou Moret, a longtime friend of Alatorre who ran unsuccessfully against Snyder in a recall election last year and is now Alatorre's campaign chairman, was more blunt: "It seems to me it would be in Art Snyder's interest to make sure his successor would be his friend. Not endorsing Richard would be of no help if Snyder wants to deal with the city after he leaves. If Richard doesn't feel he owes Snyder anything, what has he (Snyder) gained?"
Rather than call a special election, the council has the option of appointing Snyder's successor.
Alatorre says he has "not given up" trying to persuade the council to appoint him to fill Snyder's term, which expires in 1987. But he said he is still short of the eight votes he would need to garner the appointment. One council member, who said that Alatorre has "made the rounds" in seeking the appointment, said that it "is not in the cards" because too many council members resent the idea of someone gaining office without being elected. Nor does the council want to "take the heat" for the expected protests an appointment would bring, added the council member, who asked not to be identified.
Council President Pat Russell said she "has not checked" lately but she believes "the council's support for a special election is still there. . . . I got elected by special election."
Alatorre is assuming he will have to run for election. "We're putting work in now," said George Pla, Alatorre's campaign manager. He said that Speaker Brown's top aide, Richard Ross, has been recruited and will devise an intense mail campaign from his consultant office in Sacramento.
Although Alatorre has reported nearly $200,000 in surplus campaign funds as of June 30, that money cannot be used for a special election campaign because of the city campaign contribution limit law passed by the voters in April.