After a highly visible--and largely negative--primary campaign that left 10th District Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden and his rival, lawyer Stan Sanders, facing a runoff contest, both men slipped into a month of relative silence.
But with slightly more than three weeks to go before the June 6 showdown, the Holden and Sanders campaigns have come back to life.
Sanders made the biggest splash last week by winning the endorsement of former Mayor Tom Bradley, who had previously shied away from taking a side.
Bradley started his political career as councilman for the district, which includes all or part of the Crenshaw district, Koreatown, Mid-City and West Adams. And polls have shown that he remains highly popular among longtime district residents, who are among the most likely voters.
"This is clearly a defining moment of this campaign," Sanders, who got 43% of the vote in the April 11 primary, said at a Wednesday news conference with Bradley.
But Holden, who received 46% of the primary vote, also has had reason for cheer. The day before Bradley backed Sanders, the incumbent received a surprise endorsement from Kevin Ross, the deputy district attorney who forced the runoff by snaring 11% of the primary vote.
Additionally, last week brought Holden some much needed cash as well. About 100 turned out for a $500-a-plate Holden fund-raiser at the Bonaventure Hotel on Thursday, which will help him overcome his error of failing to apply for matching campaign funds from the city.
Holden mistakenly thought that declining matching funds would prevent Sanders from receiving them as well, and learned only after the application deadline that Sanders would get the funds.
Political analysts say the impact of the Bradley and Ross endorsements is unclear. Despite his popularity, Bradley was unable to help Homer Broome, a longtime ally, beat Holden in 1987 for what was then an open 10th District seat. Some of Ross' supporters, meanwhile, were likely voting against Holden when casting their primary ballots and may not follow him to Holden's side.
"Kevin Ross' votes are not transferable," said political consultant Richard Lichtenstein. "They were as much a sign of disenchantment with the incumbent as they were votes for Ross."
Ross also emphasized his disdain for Holden throughout the primary campaign, and his turnaround, which he says came about after Holden agreed to put more emphasis on youth programs, has angered some of his supporters.
"I'm not pleased at all. One of the main reasons I supported him was because I didn't want Holden reelected," said Duane Bremond, who helped Ross gather signatures to get on the ballot and is now working for Sanders.
Lichtenstein said that to get the most out of Bradley's endorsement, Sanders will have to use it to sway older voters who in past races have turned out in large numbers. Targeted mailings or phone campaigns in those areas touting the Bradley endorsement would be one strategy, Lichtenstein said. "He's gotta add value to the endorsement by using it on the high-propensity voters for it to make a difference."
Sanders has not yet decided if he will use such mailers, but he said he has increased the use of phone campaigning and district walks. Sanders said he is going door-to-door to solicit votes every day, up from the three-days-a-week schedule of the primary.
Holden, too, said he is stepping up his grass-roots campaigning. Political analysts say that in runoff elections, which typically have low turnouts, phone calls or visits to swing voters are more important than districtwide mailings.
Though they have become more visible lately, the candidates have not debated since the primary. Their first debate is scheduled for May 25.
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How Incumbents Have Fared
If recent history is any guide, the odds are slightly against Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden in his runoff race against challenger Stan Sanders. Since 1985, seven council incumbents have been forced into runoffs; only three have emerged victorious. Here is a look at the primary vote in those races and the ultimate result (the incumbent is in CAPS).
April, 1985 PEGGY STEVENSON: 42% Michael Woo: 34%
June Woo: 58% STEVENSON: 42%
April, 1987 PAT RUSSELL: 42% Ruth Galanter: 29%
June Galanter: 58% RUSSELL: 42%
April, 1989 ERNANI BERNARDI: 42% Lyle E. Hall: 26%
June BERNARDI: 55% Hall: 45%
April, 1991 RUTH GALANTER: 49% Mary Lee Gray: 20%
June GALANTER: 69% Gray: 31%
April, 1991 HAL BERNSON: 35% Julianna Korenstein: 29%
June BERNSON: 51% Julianna Korenstein: 49%
April, 1993 JOY PICUS: 37% Laura Chick: 29%
June Chick: 59% PICUS: 41%
April, 1993 JOAN MILKE FLORES: 28% Rudy Svorinich Jr.: 23%
June Svorinich: 53% FLORES: 47%