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Valley City Backers Move to Fill Campaign Gaps

Secession: Candidates and homeowner and business groups deal with loss of consultants.

September 28, 2002|SHARON BERNSTEIN and PATRICK McGREEVY | TIME STAFF WRITERS

Secession candidates, homeowners' organizations and business groups moved Friday to fill the gaps left by the San Fernando Valley cityhood drive's loss of its professional campaign consultants this week.

The newly formed United Valley Candidates and the powerful Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. said they will raise money for the cash-hungry secession campaign. Also, the San Fernando Federation, a coalition of 12 Valley homeowners' groups, announced its support for secession, and a key Realtors' group endorsed Mel Wilson, a candidate for mayor of a new Valley city.

"It's back to a grass-roots campaign," said Michael Cohen, who is running for city council in the proposed municipality.

It remains to be seen, however, whether this combination of earnest political novices, homeowners and area business leaders can pull the secession movement out of the doldrums. The cityhood backers are up against opponents with at least $3 million to spend and sophisticated campaign managers.

Arnold Steinberg, a Republican political strategist who has advised the secession campaign in the past, said he is skeptical that activism alone can win the election at this late date.

"I admire the fortitude and the persistence," Steinberg said. "But the election is [five] weeks away and the grass-roots should all be done. This is the time you should be building on your grass-roots and using your advertising."

Kam Kuwata, who is running the campaign against secession, said he believes secession can win with just grass-roots support. But he questioned whether enough people will pitch in to reach the roughly 400,000 voters who some experts believe will be needed for secession to win Nov. 5.

United Valley Candidates, a group of about 25 people who are running for office in the proposed new city, filed papers Friday with the Los Angeles Ethics Commission to form a campaign committee, which can legally raise funds and must report the money that it raises.

"We will aggressively campaign all over the city, and aggressively spread the message that Valley cityhood is good for everyone," said one of the group's organizers, Frank Sheftel, who is running for the proposed Valley city council.

The group's members will join Valley mayoral candidate Wilson in a walkathon for Valley independence Oct. 5. But members said they plan to use any money raised for their own pro-cityhood events and advertisements, rather than donate funds to the broader secession effort run by the San Fernando Valley Independence Committee.

With that campaign falling short of fund-raising goals, the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. said Friday it will launch a separate money drive to pay for its own campaign to persuade business owners to vote for the breakup.

"We are going to solicit our members for fund-raising," said Fred Gaines, chairman of VICA. "Our advocacy on this is going to be focused on businesses and business issues."

He estimated the drive would raise less than $200,000.

Gaines said the money will pay for fliers to be distributed to businesses throughout Los Angeles, as well as newspaper advertisements and, possibly, radio and television spots.

Also stepping up its involvement in the race is the Southland Regional Assn. of Realtors, which endorsed Wilson. The association endorsed secession earlier this month.

Wilson, a past president of the organization and its lobbyist, "has the negotiating experience, organizational skills and personal power needed to improve the quality of life in the San Fernando Valley," said Olga Moretti, president of the 7,300-member association.

Meanwhile, one of Wilson's nine opponents in the mayor's race, Assemblyman Keith Richman (R-Northridge), will get a boost Thursday when Valley car dealer Bert Boeckmann and attorney David Fleming hold a fund-raiser at the Universal Sheraton for his campaign.

Their participation in a fund-raiser for Richman doesn't necessarily mean that other candidates won't benefit from the businessmen's largess. Boeckmann has said he will hold fund-raisers for others. Wilson said Boeckmann promised to "help me out, too."

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