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Villaraigosa Reaches $200,000 in Donations

September 21, 2004|Jeffrey L. Rabin and Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writers

Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa reached the $200,000 mark in campaign fundraising late last week, a month and a half after he announced his second run for mayor of Los Angeles.

Villaraigosa is the last of the major candidates to hit that threshold, but he raised that amount in the same amount of time as he did in his first race for mayor four years ago.

Parke Skelton, Villaraigosa's campaign consultant, said the former Assembly speaker would have no trouble raising money for a rematch with Mayor James K. Hahn.

"Antonio is much, much stronger than he was in the primary the last time," he said. "He's got a proven donor base, he can raise the money. We're going to have all the resources we need."

But this time, Villaraigosa, who lost to Hahn in a 2001 runoff, faces significant obstacles that he did not have in his first mayoral campaign.

The Service Employees International Union, a key ally that pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct and indirect financial support to Villaraigosa in the last race, has endorsed Hahn for reelection.

And, unlike last time, no wealthy candidates are pumping large amounts of money into their campaigns, a practice that triggers a provision in the campaign finance law that allows the other candidates to raise more money from donors.

Real estate developer Steve Soboroff put $667,000 of his own money into his unsuccessful 2001 mayoral campaign. That infusion lifted the city's campaign contribution limit for other candidates in that contest from $1,000 to $7,000 per donor.

Villaraigosa took advantage of that provision to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in larger-than-normal contributions. Councilman Bernard C. Parks lent $50,000 to his mayoral campaign last spring. And that lifted the contribution limits for others in the race, but only up to that amount.

John Shallman, a campaign consultant to the mayoral campaign of former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg, said he does not think that any candidates have the financial capacity to put a substantial amount of money into their campaigns.

That means that they will have to raise money in smaller amounts. "They will have to do it the old-fashioned way -- $1,000 a pop," he said.

Villaraigosa was too busy Monday to discuss his campaign fundraising. Skelton said he hopes that "there's nobody who is rich in the race. Antonio begins this with better than 80% name ID.... The best possible environment for us and the city is one in which all candidates are living under the terms of the city's ethics law. It's ample money to mount a campaign."

Hahn's political strategist, Bill Carrick, said he was not surprised that Villaraigosa had reached the $200,000 mark a little more than six weeks after announcing his candidacy.

"Councilman Villaraigosa is going to raise money," Carrick said. "He's a proven fundraiser, he raised millions and millions when he was speaker. I'm sure he's going to be financially competitive."

Skelton said Villaraigosa launched his campaign at the beginning of August, a time when many would-be donors are on vacation. The fundraising "picked up immediately, right around the first of September."

Villaraigosa has about 20 fundraising events planned before the end of the month.

Hahn had raised almost $2 million by the end of the last reporting period on June 30. Hertzberg had collected just under $700,000. State Sen. Richard Alarcon (D-Sun Valley) had received $204,000, and Parks had raised $130,145.

In mid-August, Parks notified the city Ethics Commission that he had raised $200,000.

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