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3 Candidates Give Support to Sanchez

Politics: Former opponents in 7th District council race now back second-place finisher. Padilla anticipates endorsement by Ernani Bernardi.

April 22, 1999|PATRICK McGREEVY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hoping to inject new life into her sagging campaign for the 7th District City Council seat, Corinne Sanchez has secured endorsements from three of the four other candidates in the primary who did not make the runoff.

Sanchez, who finished a distant second in the primary, is scheduled today to announce endorsements from Raul Godinez II, who finished fourth; Ollie McCaulley, who finished fifth; and Tony Lopez, who finished sixth in the April 13 balloting.

Sanchez, 52, the director of a social services agency, faces legislative aide Alex Padilla, 26, in the June 8 runoff election for the northeast San Fernando Valley seat.

"My whole campaign was 'experience counts,' and I still believe that," said Godinez, the former mayor of San Fernando. "It's very obvious that Corinne has a lot more experience than Alex does."

The endorsements of three candidates who received 18% of the vote in the primary should rejuvenate her campaign, supporters say.

"It's a big boost for her," said one source close to Sanchez. "There's still a long way to go but this is an important piece of it."

Padilla nearly won the election outright in the primary, garnering 48% of the vote, compared with 25% received by Sanchez.

Rick Taylor, a campaign consultant for Padilla, dismissed the Sanchez endorsements and said he has one that he believes will trump Sanchez's backers.

"If the also-rans want to back a loser, that's fine," Taylor said, promising a much bigger name, a major Valley political figure, will formally endorse Padilla today.

Ernani Bernardi, a popular former councilman from the 7th District, confirmed Wednesday he has decided to endorse Padilla and will formally announce his backing today.

"He's a nice young man and I think he will do a good job," said Bernardi, 87, who left the City Council in 1993 but still lives in the district.

Bernardi had stayed out of the race in the primary, but said Padilla's strong showing convinced him to get involved.

"The district must have liked him, judging from the vote he got in the primary. That's convincing enough for me," Bernardi said.

Bernardi's successor as the 7th District council member, Richard Alarcon, has endorsed Sanchez, as have County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Gloria Molina.

Padilla had previously won endorsements from Mayor Richard Riordan and the County Federation of Labor.

Both Sanchez and Padilla aggressively sought endorsements from the candidates who did not make it into the runoff.

Lopez, Godinez and McCaulley bring many of their supporters to the Sanchez camp.

Godinez said he and his supporters were outraged by the tactics of Padilla workers, who Godinez alleged tore down campaign signs, slashed the tires of a car and spread false rumors.

"Everybody ran an honorable campaign with the exception of the Padilla camp," Godinez said. "That's an indication of what his operation would be like on the council. That's not what the community needs."

Taylor denied the Padilla campaign sanctioned misconduct by volunteers.

McCaulley also complained about Padilla's tactics. He particularly criticized one mailer comparing Padilla to John F. Kennedy, Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King Jr.

"The dirty tricks had a lot to do with it," McCaulley said. "I've talked to both candidates and I looked at who is actually going to be able to hit the ground running. I see much more experience with her."

Lopez also cited Sanchez's more than two decades of work running El Proyecto del Barrio, a nonprofit agency that provides health care and job placement in the Valley.

"She has the experience," Lopez said. "She has done a lot for our community. We need a leader."

Third-place finisher Barbara Perkins said Wednesday she is still considering whether to endorse in the runoff.

Former Assemblyman Richard Katz said the endorsements by other candidates could help rehabilitate Sanchez's credibility as a candidate following her dismal, second-place finish in the primary.

"It's clear she needs to reach out to the other candidates and coalesce her support," said Katz, who has not endorsed a candidate in the race. "Padilla's going to try to capitalize on his significant lead."

If the endorsements convince interested onlookers that Sanchez still has a chance, it could help her raise money, Katz said.

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