Los Angeles City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter has retained the backing of the key groups that helped her sweep into office four years ago and added support from key members of the city's Democratic Party Establishment as she heads into the final weeks of her reelection campaign.
Those who have endorsed Galanter in her April 9 primary race against six challengers range from police and environmental groups to congressional representatives and fellow City Council members.
Although endorsements alone cannot make a campaign, the presence or absence of a few key names on a list of supporters can reinforce prevailing opinion, observers of the 6th Council District race say.
Marc Litchman, Galanter's campaign manager, said her endorsements "show she has a broad base of support. These people respect her and the work she has done."
One major political figure who is remaining neutral in the race is Mayor Tom Bradley. But with so many well-known politicians and activist groups in the Galanter camp, her six challengers have fallen back on endorsements from community organizations, churches and prominent citizens. They also have tried to combat Galanter's endorsements by depicting themselves as newcomers who are running against an entrenched political insider.
"I am not going to the Establishment (for backing). I am going to the people," said challenger Mary Lee Gray. "That is where my campaign is oriented."
Another Galanter opponent, Tavis Smiley, said: "People are more concerned with the issues than who is supporting whom."
But endorsements played a role in the last 6th District election.
In 1987, veteran Councilwoman Pat Russell was accused by five challengers of permitting too much development in the district, which includes the Venice, Westchester and Crenshaw communities. That charge gained weight when it was repeated by Councilman Marvin Braude, who had emerged as a leader of the city's slow-growth movement.
And Galanter--who had been a little-known urban planner before the '87 campaign--earned considerable stature when Braude broke ranks with the rest of the council to endorse her.
Galanter got another boost when she won the endorsement of two respected environmental groups, the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters.
The two groups are again backing Galanter. This time around, their support may be more notable for the problems it spares her. If any of her challengers had secured one of these major environmental endorsements, it could have done "mind-boggling" damage to her campaign hopes, said one observer, who asked not to be named.
Emil Lawton, chair of the political committee for the Sierra Club's Los Angeles-Orange County Chapter, said the group heard critics say Galanter had "not lived up to her advertising" as an opponent of overdevelopment. But Sierra Club representatives met with Galanter and, Lawton said, "she gave a pretty spirited defense of herself."
He added: "She could point to a track record that was really pretty good."
Lawton said Gray, considered one of Galanter's top challengers, never responded to an endorsement questionnaire sent out by the group.
Gray, however, said she was never contacted by the Sierra Club and that the group's endorsement process was not fair.
Support for Galanter from the Los Angeles Chapter of the League of Conservation Voters was never really in doubt. The group's president, Moe Stavnezer, is a longtime Galanter supporter.
Stavnezer praised Galanter for her efforts to preserve the Ballona Wetlands near Marina del Rey and the El Segundo Dunes next to Los Angeles International Airport. He also said Galanter's advocacy of a measure passed by the council that requires ultra-low flush toilets in new developments will save billions of gallons of water.
Another group backing the councilwoman is the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents rank-and-file officers. The league recently sent a letter to 6th District voters praising Galanter for her efforts to establish Neighborhood Watch groups and for her overall support of the Police Department.
Key local Democrats supporting Galanter include U.S. Reps. Henry A. Waxman, Howard L. Berman and Maxine Waters, state Sen. Diane Watson and Assemblywoman Gwen Moore. Galanter also has the backing of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party.
Unlike Russell in '87, Galanter apparently will not have to worry about other council members endorsing opponents, according to several of her colleagues. "There is zero chance of that," Braude said this week.
Mayor Bradley, meanwhile, has said through a spokeswoman that he will not endorse any of the 6th District candidates. But the lack of a Bradley endorsement is not expected to hurt Galanter, who defeated Russell four years ago despite the mayor's strong backing of the 18-year incumbent.