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Alarcon to Run Against Hahn

Former councilman becomes first serious candidate to enter 2005 race against mayor.

March 09, 2004|Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writer

State Sen. Richard Alarcon said Monday that he is launching a campaign to unseat Mayor James K. Hahn in the 2005 election.

The Sun Valley Democrat said he would be an inspirational leader and would give more power to the city's local neighborhood councils. He also criticized the mayor for failing to provide clear direction for Los Angeles and said investigations into city contracting and fundraising have cast a pall over the city.

"As I talk to people throughout the city of Los Angeles, they really are not inspired about city government," said Alarcon, 50, a former Los Angeles City Council member who also worked for Mayor Tom Bradley. "I believe I understand the city of Los Angeles, and more than anything else, I am enthusiastic about the work I do."

The mayor, who is in Washington this week meeting with members of Congress, seemed unfazed by Alarcon's decision.

"It's a free country," Hahn said. "Anyone can run for office."

Bill Carrick, a political advisor to the mayor, downplayed the potential threat posed by the senator.

"There is a history of Sacramento politicians running for citywide office in L.A. and not doing very well," Carrick said. "People from Los Angeles don't generally look to Sacramento as a place where they want to find their leadership."

But Fernando Guerra, director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles, said Alarcon is a formidable candidate who is often underestimated.

"I think his chances are good," Guerra said. "He has a base of support ... and he has a lot of experience with city of L.A. issues."

With the March election a year away, Alarcon is the first serious contender to declare his candidacy.

City Controller Laura Chick and former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg have said they are considering whether to run for the office, while Councilmen Bernard C. Parks and Antonio Villaraigosa are widely viewed as potential candidates.

Villaraigosa, a former state Assembly speaker, lost to Hahn in the 2001 runoff election.

Two other people, Addie Mae Miller and Walter Moore, have filed papers with the city's Ethics Commission to begin fundraising, but they are not well known in the Los Angeles political establishment.

If several candidates jump into the race and push Hahn into a runoff, Guerra said, anything could happen.

But candidates face a tough challenge against Hahn, a tenacious campaigner who has never lost a citywide election through six campaigns. The mayor also has a tremendous head start in campaign money, taking in more than $1.3 million.

Alarcon dismissed those advantages.

"This race is not going to be won with campaign contributions," he said. "It is going to be won by building the spirit of the people of Los Angeles."

In 1993, he was elected to the City Council's 7th District seat, and became the first Latino to represent the Valley on the council. In 1998, he was elected to the state Senate.

Sacramento political consultant Richie Ross will run his campaign.

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Times staff writer Noam N. Levey contributed to this report.

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