Los Angeles City Council candidate Beth Garfield said Monday she has loaned her campaign another $350,000 in personal funds, which lifts some contribution limits for opponent Tom LaBonge and promises one of the most expensive council runoffs the city has ever seen.
The loan was disclosed as the candidates squared off in North Hollywood in a spirited debate over revamping the LAPD, expanding Sunshine Canyon Landfill and over each other's record.
Garfield, a law firm partner and former elected president of the Los Angeles Community College Board, made the latest loan to her campaign for the Oct. 23 runoff election. It brings to $700,000 the amount of personal funds, equally divided between the election and the runoff, she has put into her effort to win the 4th District seat vacated in April by the death of John Ferraro.
LaBonge had agreed to a spending limit of $275,000 in exchange for receiving up to $125,000 in city matching funds. Once Garfield spends more than $275,000, virtually guaranteed now, it will lift the spending limit for LaBonge, who will still get matching funds.
In the meantime, the individual contribution limit for LaBonge was raised from $500 to $1,000 and a $150,000 limit on aggregate contributions from companies, unions and other entities has been lifted, triggered by the loan.
Garfield said the short time frame for the runoff election (less than two months) forced her to choose between spending time fund-raising or meeting with voters on the issues.
"I'm facing an opponent who is raising money at an unprecedented rate from special interests," Garfield said. "I didn't want to be drowned out by the special interest onslaught. I chose to self-finance because it allows me to do grass-roots campaigning."
Garfield also is raising private contributions.
LaBonge, a former chief field deputy for Ferraro and onetime aide to former Mayor Richard Riordan, has tapped supporters gathered during his 27 years in City Hall, including the police and firefighters unions.
He is not concerned that Garfield's loan might give her an undue advantage in the race, said Julie Buckner, a political consultant for LaBonge.
LaBonge raised more than $500,000 in contributions and matching funds in the first election, keeping pace with Garfield's campaign.
Buckner said Garfield's loan is a sign she can't raise the money from others. "She doesn't have the support," Buckner said, adding she is confident LaBonge will keep pace in funding.
If LaBonge matches Garfield in spending, the race will eclipse the most expensive runoff campaign in a council race since the Ethics Commission began keeping records in 1989: the 14th District contest in 1999 in which Nick Pacheco and Victor Griego spent a combined $641,000.
In Monday's debate, Garfield questioned how LaBonge could change the City Hall bureaucracy "because of the fact that for 27 years you have been an integral part of that bureaucracy."
She also questioned whether he will owe too much to the "special interests" that she said support him. LaBonge responded that he has support from a broad base of people and added, "I've always done what is best for the city of Los Angeles in my career and I've been able to say no to people."
LaBonge said he believes the city should make sure the expansion of Sunshine Canyon does not hurt surrounding neighborhoods. Garfield opposed any expansion.
Both candidates said they support police reform.
Garfield said she would not support the extension of Police Chief Bernard C. Parks' tenure if he does not turn the department around and improve officer morale.
LaBonge said it is premature to determine whether the chief should get an extension.
The district stretches from North Hollywood to Koreatown, and includes Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Hollywood, Hancock Park, the Cahuenga Pass and Studio City.