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Citing Mailers, Baca No Longer Backs Pacheco

Sheriff Baca pulls endorsement and persuades councilman's backer to stop ads.

November 14, 2002|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

Sheriff Lee Baca withdrew his endorsement of Los Angeles City Councilman Nick Pacheco on Wednesday because of "hate-filled" attacks on the councilman's rival and persuaded the author of the ads to suspend the mail campaign.

"I am deeply troubled by the extremely negative and hate-filled attacks your supporters and associates are making against Antonio Villaraigosa," Baca wrote to Pacheco. "Therefore, I must withdraw my endorsement of your candidacy."

Even though Ricardo A. Torres II agreed to stop the mailers, Baca said he did not want to be associated with a campaign in which such tactics were used. He called on Pacheco's campaign to cease the distribution of any mail that has the sheriff's name or photograph.

Torres, a Pacheco supporter, last week sent a mailer to voters in the 14th Council District accusing Villaraigosa of ignoring the needs of Latino constituents at the urging of "white advisors" and "gringos." A second mailer by Torres accused Villaraigosa of being a "womanizer."

Torres issued a statement Wednesday saying that after talking with Baca, he decided that "effective today, I am suspending my next series of truth-based mailers about Antonio Villaraigosa's lack of honesty and integrity until something causes me to do otherwise."

The personal injury attorney described the sheriff as a "good friend." Baca worked with Torres' father when Baca was head of the court services section of the Sheriff's Department and the senior Ricardo Torres was presiding judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court in 1991.

The younger Torres said the Pacheco campaign had "absolutely no involvement in my personally financed campaign," and offered no remorse for the mailings.

"My campaign has accomplished its goal of revealing Antonio's Machiavellian moves to eliminate effective community- based leaders like Councilman Nick Pacheco ... so he can be mayor," Torres said.

In an interview, Baca said he told Pacheco and Torres that he felt the mailers were "rather divisive from the standpoint of race."

"It totally undermines the effort of myself and others to keep harmony in the community and this county," said Baca, who endorsed Villaraigosa in the 2001 mayoral campaign.

Villaraigosa is one of five candidates challenging Pacheco in the March 2003 election.

Though Pacheco has said repeatedly that he had nothing to do with the mailers, the sheriff noted that the councilman "implied endorsement of the content" by saying publicly that he thought the mailers involved "facts."

On Wednesday, Pacheco called the mailers "inappropriate" and said they hurt his campaign by costing him the Baca endorsement.

"This is exactly why I told Ricardo he isn't doing me any favors," Pacheco said, adding he is pleased that other endorsers are standing behind him after he assured them he was not behind the mailers.

Pacheco said he urged Baca and Council President Alex Padilla to pressure Torres to stop the mailers.

Padilla said he wrote a letter to Torres on Wednesday asking him to cease the anti-Villaraigosa mail campaign. "I told him I thought dirty campaigning has no place in Los Angeles and is detrimental to the political process," he said.

Padilla and Mayor James K. Hahn indicated Wednesday that they are standing by endorsements of Pacheco, although a Hahn spokesman added "for now."

Hahn "told Nick Pacheco he needed to denounce these mailers," said Deputy Mayor Matt Middlebrook. "The mayor thought these mailers were despicable."

Villaraigosa was far from satisfied with Torres' announcement because Torres was unapologetic and indicated that he may resume the mail campaign down the road.

"It's clear from Mr. Torres' statement that he neither accepts responsibility nor is willing to apologize to my family and the constituents of the 14th Council District," said Villaraigosa, a former Assembly speaker.

He said he would file complaints with the city Ethics Commission and the county district attorney's office alleging that the mailers are illegal because they failed to include any reference to who was sending them.

"The fact that he refuses to commit to permanently cease and desist from engaging in what appears to be illegal smear tactics gives me every reason to believe we haven't heard the last of Mr. Torres," Villaraigosa said.

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