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Just Jack : For Council Candidate, the Name of the Game Is Voter Gimmick

February 09, 1989|ALAN CITRON | Times Staff Writer

In the beginning there were only two of them: Fabian and Dion. Then came other famous single-namers, such as Cher and Madonna. Now make way for Jack.

Jack is the irrepressible Jack McGrath, a political consultant running as a write-in candidate in the Los Angeles City Council's 5th District. In a move that has sent election officials scurrying for a legal opinion, McGrath says he wants to jettison his last name and be formally known strictly as Jack.

"I think single names are catchy," McGrath said. "It's like (Gov. George) Deukmejian. Everybody knows him as Duke. With me, it will just be Jack."

Appeals to 'Street People'

McGrath, 43, has already hit the streets with his new campaign theme. As he extends his hand to 5th District voters riding on buses, walking and eating in restaurants, McGrath is confidently proclaiming: "Jack is back!"

McGrath said he plans to highlight the single-name gimmick throughout the campaign. The North Hollywood resident, who is running against his former boss, Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, said the simplicity of a single-name appeals to the "street people" who are the targets of his grass-roots campaign.

"I'll take street power over institutional power any day," McGrath said. "There's a lot of that spirit alive. No one has tapped it, but I will."

Joe Giles, the assistant chief of the city's elections division, confirmed that McGrath is seeking one-name status in the election. Giles said he has forwarded the request to the city attorney's office for a legal opinion.

Giles could not recall another instance in which a write-in candidate has used a single name. He also could not say when the city might issue a ruling.

"It's purely up to the city attorney's office at this point," Giles said.

Failed to Get Signatures

McGrath entered the council race as a traditional candidate but was disqualified on Saturday when he failed to get the 500 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. McGrath blamed himself, saying he trusted others to collect signatures. The idea of running as a write-in came shortly afterward, McGrath said, as he was sitting on the beach considering his options.

"I did some real soul-searching," McGrath said. "And I realized I could do a better job this way. There's only one Jack who's a write-in candidate."

The filing deadline for write-in hopefuls in the April 11 City Council primary is March 28. If McGrath is allowed to run as a single-name candidate, his backers will be able to vote for him by writing "Jack" on their ballots. Presumably, they would also have the option of scribbling McGrath's full name.

But Yaroslavsky's campaign manager, Karin Caves, said she doubts that many voters will do either. "This is a guy who couldn't even get 500 voter signatures to support him," Caves said. "And he's not going to fool any voters if he only uses his first name or some part of it."

McGrath, however, is approaching the unlikely campaign with surprising self-confidence.

The former Yaroslavsky campaign manager and deputy, who made a name for himself in political circles with his flair for publicity, has proclaimed himself to be the people's candidate.

In appearances before homeowners groups and in press conferences, he has accused Yaroslavsky of betraying his constituents by opening the district up to intense commercial development.

As have Yaroslavsky's other opponents, Westwood activist Laura M. Lake and traffic consultant Ryan Snyder, McGrath has pledged that he would fight for a better quality of life in 5th District areas, such as Westwood, Beverly-Fairfax, Sherman Oaks and North Hollywood.

McGrath is campaigning full time and plans to produce a cable television ad stressing his single-name theme. His old commercial, which started appearing when McGrath was using his full name, will be pulled. McGrath also has a new campaign theme song called, "In the Streets," by newcomer Ivan Neville.

"I play it all the time," McGrath said. "I love people in the street."

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