Ousted from the state Senate by term limits, Tom Hayden--a once and, perhaps, future mayoral candidate--filed Wednesday to run for Mike Feuer's Los Angeles City Council seat.
The Westside liberal is expected to formally announce his candidacy today at a news conference on Mulholland Drive, overlooking the council district that stretches from Westwood to Van Nuys.
By joining the council race, Hayden becomes the front-runner in an already crowded field of strong but less well-known candidates, according to political consultant Richard Lichtenstein.
"He has got a higher profile than the other candidates and he has the best ability to raise campaign funds," Lichtenstein said.
However, several observers said Hayden faces a challenge of focusing more on local bread-and-butter issues than on the broader policy questions on which Hayden is used to campaigning.
"The issues when you run for council are about tree trimming and streets and other fundamentals as opposed to more global issues such as health care," Lichtenstein said.
Hayden has taken a leading role in pursuing legislative remedies to the issues raised in the Los Angeles Police Department's ongoing Rampart corruption scandal. He also has been a prominent critic of alleged abuses by the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the neighborhoods policed by the Rampart station. There, and in other parts of the city, he also has been active in promoting truces and other local initiatives to combat gang violence.
"Too many people feel too little connection to decisions that affect their lives in this fast city," Hayden said Wednesday. "The urban quality of life, even in affluent communities, seems besieged by congestion, pollution, failing schools, unresponsive bureaucracies, ethnic divides and tensions, which can suddenly flare into violence. Local businesses are being replaced by indifferent multinational ones and local voices go unheard amid remote downtown control."
Feuer, who does not plan to endorse anyone before the primary, agreed that Hayden makes the race more interesting.
Hayden was a household name long before he ran for the Assembly in 1982. As a college student, he helped found Students for a Democratic Society and volunteered as a freedom rider, seeking to desegregate the South. More recently, he was known for his 16-year marriage to actress Jane Fonda and for his opposition to the Vietnam War. In the last mayoral race, he unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Richard Riordan.
Hayden, who lives in Brentwood and has until the end of the year to move into Feuer's district, was elected to the Senate in 1992 after previously serving a decade in the Assembly. Because the term-limits law didn't take effect until 1990, he could run again for a seat in the Assembly and serve two two-year terms if elected.
Last November, however, Hayden announced that he was ready to leave state politics.
"As I now approach 60 years of age, including 40 years of activism, I began to wonder if there were other ways to combat racism, poverty, inequality and corruption," Hayden wrote in a letter to supporters.
He said that running again for political office in Los Angeles would allow him to be closer to his family.