Mayoral candidates Steve Soboroff, Joel Wachs and James Hahn have decided to put their campaign headquarters in the San Fernando Valley, signaling the significant role they expect Valley voters to play in electing Los Angeles' next chief executive.
Valley voters made up 48% of those who went to the polls citywide in the Nov. 7 election, even though the Valley is home to only 38% of the city's registered voters. The Valley played a decisive role in electing Richard Riordan to two terms as mayor.
"It's an important place," said Matt Middlebrook, a political strategist for City Atty. Hahn. "You are going to have 40 to 50% of the vote in the Valley. It is going to be a focus for us in turning out the vote."
Hahn's campaign headquarters will open Monday on Ventura Boulevard in Tarzana. A satellite office is planned for the Crenshaw District. Hahn lives in San Pedro.
Soboroff, president of the city parks commission and a commercial real estate broker, said he will open his campaign headquarters on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks today. The location has symbolic importance, he said.
"This is the corner of Main and Main for Los Angeles," he said. "I grew up in the Valley. The Valley is Los Angeles. The issues of the Valley are the issues of Los Angeles."
The Soboroff headquarters are near the Ventura Boulevard office used by Riordan as his headquarters when he first ran for mayor in 1993.
Soboroff said he will open satellite offices elsewhere, but none as large as the 5,000-square-foot Valley office, which will house a 40-phone bank.
"It is a huge statement of my confidence in the Valley, and the Valley's confidence in me, to open it there," said Soboroff, who lives in West Los Angeles and has pledged, if elected, to work two days a week in the Valley.
With the April 10 primary election about three months away, Los Angeles City Councilman Wachs of Studio City said he plans to open his mayoral campaign headquarters somewhere in the Valley soon but has not picked a location.
"I live in the Valley, I work in the Valley, I represent the Valley, and it will be my primary headquarters," Wachs said.
Among the other major mayoral candidates, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) has opened a campaign office in Echo Park, and former state Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa has a temporary office downtown, but has not decided where to put his permanent headquarters.
State Controller Kathleen Connell, another candidate for mayor, has opened a temporary campaign office in West Los Angeles, where she lives. Connell said she has not yet decided where to put her headquarters but believes she will at least have a field office in the Valley, where she announced her candidacy.
"It's a significant voting bloc in the city, and I intend to spend a large amount of time campaigning there," she said Friday.
Connell said her children go to school in the Valley, at the Balboa Gifted/High Ability Magnet elementary school, play in a Valley soccer league and take music lessons in the Valley.
Placing headquarters in the Valley was judged "politically astute," by Studio City attorney David Fleming, chairman of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley, president of the city Fire Commission and a close advisor to Riordan. He has not endorsed anyone in the race.
"Clearly you have to have a strong base in the Valley to win," Fleming said. "Because of the high propensity of Valley voters to turn out in city elections, any candidate would be foolhardy to ignore the Valley."
Voters in the Valley have tended to be more conservative, one reason Riordan, a Republican, was able to win in 1993. With secession a major issue, all of the candidates are working hard to address complaints of poor city services.
In 1993, mayoral candidate Michael Woo beat Riordan in districts of South and Central Los Angeles, but Riordan won 71% of the Valley, helping him secure victory with 54% of the citywide vote.
In 1997, Riordan won reelection with 74% of the Valley vote.
Fleming said Wachs has a slight advantage among Valley voters, because he is the only candidate who lives there. Other contenders have raised campaign war chests to help them get their message to voters north of Mulholland Drive, he added.
"I think it's a wide open race right now in the Valley," he said.