The candidates in the Los Angeles City Council's crowded 6th District race will be hitting the streets with varying degrees of intensity today. Five of the contenders are canvassing the district on foot. The sixth, council President Pat Russell, will be running in the Los Angeles Marathon.
Russell is one of 12,666 competitors in the 26.2-mile race. The council president has been running about 40 miles a week, usually along the beach at daybreak, and anticipates finishing somewhere near the middle of the pack.
"I expect to do it in about 4 hours and 20 minutes," said Russell, 63. "That's about average."
Russell expects to fare much better in the April 14 council race. The Venice, Westchester and Crenshaw area councilwoman has incumbency and a $250,000 campaign chest in her favor. She has also been attending community functions and touring the district in a concerted effort to solidify support.
Her opponents are largely unknown and untested. Rimmon C. Fay, Ruth Galanter, Salvatore Grammatico, Virginia Taylor Hughes and Patrick McCartney come from the ranks of community activists. They are short of campaign money and almost totally dependent on volunteers. But they share the belief that Russell is vulnerable because of her support for commercial development.
The five challengers hammered away at Russell's record on growth and other issues at recent Westchester and Venice political forums that drew hundreds of people. Now, with the next candidates' forum several weeks away, they are devising new strategies for getting their messages to the voters.
"I will be going door to door," said Virginia Taylor Hughes, a Crenshaw resident who discounts the argument that campaigns require large sums of money. "I realize that's the only way people will become more familiar with me."
The Taylor Hughes campaign is staffed by volunteers and run out of a small office on Crenshaw Boulevard. The 41-year-old homemaker and community activist is the only candidate from the Crenshaw area. Taylor Hughes said her toughest challenge is getting herself known to the voters in Venice, Westchester and Mar Vista.
In the first political forum, the effervescent Taylor Hughes refused to use a microphone. In the second forum, she repeatedly referred to the 6th District as the "Super 6th." Taylor Hughes said that gimmicks such as catchy phrases spark interest in a campaign. "I hope that before this is over, my name will become a household word to all of the voters in the Super 6th," she said.
The other challengers will also be canvassing the district, which is home to about 100,000 voters, in coming weeks in hopes of creating a groundswell of support that will push one of them into a runoff with Russell.
Galanter is generally viewed as the strongest of the five challengers. The urban planning consultant, a former chair of the California Regional Coastal Commission, has strong support within her Venice home base and has amassed about $20,000 in campaign funds. Most of the money will be used for political mailers. But Galanter said her main strategy is to personally meet the voters.
"There are an enormous number of people out there who are anxious for a change," said the 45-year-old Galanter, who is campaigning full time with the help of one paid staff member and several volunteers. "The important ingredients in the race are enthusiasm and coordinated support."
Galanter is joined in the race by two other Venice activists, Fay and McCartney. When the three of them entered the campaign, some people speculated that they were trying to gang up on Russell. Galanter denied that any such conspiracy exists. But she said that Russell may be forced into a runoff because of the large field of candidates.
"The arithmetic is pretty clear," Galanter said. "In the April race the question is whether being the best funded and the best known can get you the full 50% or not. Theoretically, the more people that you have pulling votes away, the less likely it is that she (Russell) will get the 50%."
McCartney, a 38-year-old writer and community activist, said the three candidates from Venice have separate bases of support. McCartney built his own political reputation as a leader of 6th District community organizations such as the Venice Town Council and the Coalition of Concerned Communities.
Like Taylor Hughes and Galanter, he is campaigning full time with the help of volunteer supporters. McCartney expects to open an office in Westchester and is looking for furniture and an answering machine. He said that grass-roots candidates must devote enormous amounts of energy to their campaigns.
"I'm pleased with the (progress) of the campaign," said McCartney, who has raised about $7,500. "But it's demanding a lot of time. I didn't realize how many things were involved. Weekends have become extremely valuable time."