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Another Dose of Sleaze

Attacks on Antonio Villaraigosa foul the process in Eastside race for City Council.

November 12, 2002

"Negative campaign" is way too positive a label for the sleazy attacks Los Angeles City Councilman Nick Pacheco's pal Ricardo Torres has launched against former Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, who is challenging Pacheco for the 14th District council seat in the March election.

Yes, March. Voters in this Eastside district don't get the slightest break from the nasty gubernatorial campaign before being hit by one that makes the earlier state race look like a game of patty-cake.

Torres, an attorney who went to law school with Pacheco, says he plans to raise $500,000 to pay for two attack ads a week in a bid to get Villaraigosa to drop out of the race.

Just to give a sense of Torres' civility level: The first mailer was a bigoted diatribe in which he ranted that the former Assembly speaker and mayoral candidate ignored Latinos while kowtowing to "white advisors" and "gringos." Villaraigosa filed city and county complaints Monday charging that the first two fliers violated state election law.

Pacheco denies having anything to do with the mailers. Either he's lying or he has pathetically little sway over his friends and supporters. Whatever. It's now his burden to convince voters not to hold these creepy outbursts against him.

Attack-style campaigning is not just bad form, it's bad politics. A Times exit poll found that the negative campaign waged by Gov. Gray Davis against challenger Bill Simon Jr. contributed to a record low turnout in last week's general election, especially among blacks and Latinos. Davis did win, but with less than 50% of the vote and by an embarrassingly small margin for a race against a gaffe-prone neophyte.

The anti-Villaraigosa mailers don't even pretend to be about policy differences. No wonder voters are so turned off.

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