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Political Briefing

Heavy Hitters' Gifts to Padilla Strike Some as Excessive

March 08, 2001|PATRICK McGREEVY and SUE FOX | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Even though he faces no opponent, Councilman Alex Padilla has still raised more than $148,000 for his reelection campaign in the 7th Council District. That's more--much more, in some cases--than many lesser-known candidates struggling to capture other Valley seats.

Padilla launched his campaign last year anticipating some type of challenge, said his spokesman, David Gershwin. But even after no rival stepped forward, Padilla's fund-raising machine continued to grind. In just the last two months, the councilman has collected $90,000 in contributions, according to campaign finance reports.

And he's not done yet. On Tuesday, Padilla expects to rake in about $100,000 at a cocktail reception and dinner at the Biltmore Hotel. The fund-raiser is being co-chaired by some of the heaviest hitters in Los Angeles politics, including Mayor Richard Riordan, City Atty. James Hahn (a leading candidate for mayor), and City Council President John Ferraro.

"They know he's going to be around for four to eight more years," Gershwin said. "They definitely want to support him."

All the cash for a shoo-in incumbent seems a tad excessive to some candidates who are paddling upstream in hotly contested races. Victor Viereck, for example, has pulled in less than $5,000 in his longshot bid for the neighboring 5th Council District seat.

"I don't know why, being uncontested, [Padilla] needs to raise all that," said Viereck, a certified public accountant who is running near the back of the pack in his 11-way race.

"I'm way down there at the bottom," he said. "I feel uncomfortable asking for money. I'm not persistent."

That doesn't seem to be a problem for Padilla, a young political aide who rocketed into office in 1999 with strong backing from labor unions and Riordan. This year, the councilman took in dozens of $500 contributions from developers, unions and business owners, as well as many smaller donations.

Donors giving $500 include Police Commissioner Bert Boeckmann; biotech mogul Alfred Mann; developer Gerald Katell; the Hansen Dam Equestrian Center; the Los Angeles Police Protective League; and Laborers International Union Local 300.

Padilla plans to dip into his campaign chest to pay for mailers touting projects in his district, such as the construction of new branch libraries and a Children's Museum, Gershwin said. He may take out ads in local newspapers. Any leftover cash will be rolled into Padilla's officeholder account, to be used for travel and other expenses.

And what sort of campaign would it be without a victory party?

"He'll probably have an election night celebration," Gershwin said. "That will be paid for by campaign funds."

Judging by the size of his account, that should be some bash.

*

SLOGANEERING: Riordan won election in 1993 with a catchy campaign slogan "Tough Enough to Turn L.A. Around."

Ever since, candidates for city office have tried to come up with slogans that will set them apart from the rest of the field.

That is true of the contenders for the southwest Valley's 3rd District seat on the Los Angeles City Council. At a recent forum in Studio City, the candidates paraded out slogans and other gimmicks for an audience of business leaders.

Tsilah Burman told the crowd they can remember how to pronounce her first name by remembering the phrase "See L.A."

"I'm the candidate with a vision for a new and better Los Angeles," she said, repeating a line she has used on several audiences.

Next there was candidate Dennis Zine.

"If you vote for Dennis Zine, everything will be fine," he recited for the amused audience.

Candidate Jason Dominguez passed out a flier with his own slogan: "Improving Valley Neighborhoods."

Francine Oschin said she briefly considered but discarded the idea of a slogan using her name.

"The problem is, nothing rhymes with either Francine or Oschin," she said.

Among the slogans she thought of but ruled out: "Get in Motion with Oschin."

*

SUNSHINING: Cindy Miscikowski may be favored by pundits to win reelection April 10, but the Los Angeles city councilwoman is facing discontent from Democratic activists in the San Fernando Valley portion of her district.

That was apparent Monday night when the executive board of the Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley took the unusual step of voting not to endorse the incumbent against little-known challenger Arthur Mortell in the coming election.

Miscikowski sought the coveted endorsement, even sitting for an interview with activists on the 43-member executive board.

"We did consider her and her opponent but we decided to make no endorsement in the race," said Board Chairman Jeff Daar, who declined to elaborate.

However, interviews with board members found widespread feeling that Miscikowski, who lives in a gated community in Brentwood, has neglected the Valley portion of her district, which includes portions of Van Nuys, Encino, Woodland Hills and Sherman Oaks.

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