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ELECTIONS '95 : L.A. Council Candidates Wage War of the Mailboxes : 5th District: With fighting crime a priority for all, hopefuls are relying on mass mailings to differentiate themselves.

April 02, 1995|LOUISE YARNALL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For almost 20 years, the name Yaroslavsky has been synonymous with election landslides in one Los Angeles City Council district. Now, three candidates will battle that surname--and a sizable political war chest--hoping to prevent Barbara Yaroslavsky from ascending to the seat long held by her husband.

Four candidates are vying in the April 11 election to fill Zev Yaroslavsky's vacant seat. And their aggressive campaigns--coupled with a projected voter turnout of as low as 25%--make the prospect of a June 6 runoff likely.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday April 9, 1995 Home Edition Westside Part J Page 6 Zones Desk 1 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
Council district maps--The Westside section ran outdated Los Angeles City Council district maps in its April 2 edition. Updated district maps accompany today's story on the council elections.

Apart from Barbara Yaroslavsky, the two best-financed candidates are former Bet Tzedek Director Mike Feuer and former Los Angeles Unified School District board member Roberta Weintraub.

Also running is Jeff Brain, a Sherman Oaks realtor. He wants more city services contracted out and opposes new bond measures to finance the police.

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In a predominantly Democratic district known for its roots in the Westside Jewish community, the three best-known candidates--Yaroslavsky, Weintraub and Feuer--have had little trouble raising money and finding pockets of support. So, the edge may go to those appealing to the more conservative San Fernando Valley voters. Many anticipate a renewal of the war of the mailbox, a familiar election tradition in the affluent and politically diverse 5th District, which stretches from Fairfax and Westwood to Sherman Oaks in the Valley.

As of late February, Yaroslavsky had raised $307,000; Feuer, $267,300; Weintraub, $207,000, and Brain, about $37,000.

Some residents questioned recently at Farmers Market confessed that they consult the glossy pamphlets before voting, although they voiced disgust with a deluge of political junk mail in the race.

"They should specify what their true aims are," said Ruth Foster, a Yaroslavsky backer who said she was disappointed in the vague content of her favorite candidate's mailings.

Still, her loyalty to the Yaroslavsky name is winning out.

"We have been happy with Zev," said Foster, describing how the councilman helped clean up a neighborhood park.

Zev Yaroslavsky, who earned more than 60% of the vote in his two most recent elections, is like a brand name among the satisfied, regular voters of the district.

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But there are always dissatisfied voters. And with the city of Los Angeles still trying to shake off a malaise brought on by riots, wildfires, earthquake and recession, there's always a chance that new voters will come to the ballot box out of sheer frustration.

To reach them, Feuer and Weintraub have hired consultants considered maestros of the political mailer.

Feuer, 36, longtime director of Bet Tzedek, a pro bono legal clinic for the elderly and disabled, is targeting conservative male voters who are disgusted with crime and view City Hall as inefficient and unethical. He has hired Larry Levine, the consultant who helped Wally Knox beat out better-known Westside liberals for Burt Margolin's 42nd District Assembly seat last summer.

"Male voters, for better or worse, are tending to vote for male candidates," Levine said.

Feuer's early mailers, strikingly similar to Knox's shadowy close-ups of guns and handcuffed criminals, portray him as an outsider who is committed to fighting crime. More recently, he has sought to broaden his appeal with softer political mementos, sending out potholders along with a personal letter on rose-imprinted stationery from his parents, Stella and Mel.

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Weintraub, 59, the savvy Los Angeles school board veteran known for being a political renegade, has her strongest appeal among female voters. And despite the conservative credentials she established on the school board, she has won the endorsement of Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg, a former board colleague who is arguably the council's most liberal voice.

Weintraub's mailers are designed by Parke Skelton, whose firm helped underdog Tom Hayden pluck a Westside state Senate seat from veteran Herschel Rosenthal in 1992. The mailers feature gauzy close-ups of Weintraub and give prominent mention to education issues, women's equality and "hope for our children."

Skelton acknowledges that Weintraub is "splitting up the feminist endorsement" with Yaroslavsky, and that she does better among women.

Weintraub, who came into the race with strong name recognition, poses a particular challenge to Yaroslavsky. Yaroslavsky, 47, has appealed to female voters through multi-candidate mailers and one glossy handout. They feature her pro-choice stance and feminist endorsements.

Brain, 35, who is counting on a strong showing in the Valley, has not begun his mail campaign and has declined to discuss his strategy.

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All four candidates say fighting crime is their top priority. They advocate increasing the size of the Los Angeles Police Department with volunteers and using reserves to handle paperwork. They also want to create community storefront substations.

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