Los Angeles City Councilman Alex Padilla announced Friday that 10 of his 14 council colleagues had agreed to back his campaign for the state Senate's 20th District seat in the San Fernando Valley.
"It's a testimony to our accomplishments together," Padilla said. "After seven years, who better to speak to my work ethic and leadership."
But his opponent, Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez (D-San Fernando), won the endorsement that really counts in City Hall: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will appear with Montanez on Saturday to formally announce his support.
"I think that's by far the most important endorsement in the race and could very well determine how the residents vote," said Mike Shimpock, a campaign consultant for Montanez.
He said he wasn't surprised that most council members were supporting Padilla. "These people have to work with Alex every day. What do you expect them to do?" Shimpock asked.
The race between Padilla, 33, and Montanez, 32, is one of the most hotly contested in the state this year. Both are proteges of state Sen. Richard Alarcon (D-Sun Valley), who must leave his 20th District seat because of term limits. Padilla and Montanez are competing June 6 to win the Democratic nomination, which probably will decide the winner in November's general election because the district is a Democratic stronghold.
Four council members have not endorsed Padilla. Wendy Greuel, Janice Hahn and Jack Weiss say they are staying neutral. Jan Perry has endorsed Montanez and given campaign contributions to her.
Many in City Hall believe that the race will be close. Padilla's campaign has raised more than $700,000 and Montanez about $400,000 through March, the last reporting period. Both candidates have also lined up endorsements from fellow lawmakers and have won support from major unions.
Montanez won a seat in the 39th Assembly District in 2002 at 28, making her the youngest woman to serve in the Legislature. Born and raised in the Valley, Padilla was elected to the council in 1999 and became council president in 2001. After he was elected council president three times, his colleagues voted to replace him in November with Eric Garcetti, who is supporting Padilla in the Senate race.
"We're the two young guys on the council," Garcetti said, noting that they have been friends since childhood. "Even though he's a year and half younger than me, he's been a mentor."