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The chosen ones

Politics in Los Angeles has become a closed game, with Democratic Party power brokers calling the shots.

March 27, 2007

IT'S STARTING TO feel like the Politburo. Power brokers in California's Democratic Party move the pieces on the chessboard, then go through the charade of putting their choices on the ballot. But the representatives of "the people" already have been named.

So Felipe Fuentes is designated to step into the Assembly shoes of Richard Alarcon, who served three months of his term before filling the Los Angeles City Council seat left by Fuentes' former boss, Alex Padilla, who moved to the state Senate by defeating Cindy Montanez (in a rare election with actual choices), who was going to run for Padilla's council seat but, like Fuentes, dropped out of the race when the powers that be designated Alarcon. Montanez's reward for playing ball was a seat on the city Planning Commission and a post on the state Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. Fuentes is being awarded the Assembly seat, although the voters get to rubber-stamp the coronation in a May 15 special election.

The cure for removing the voters from the political process is supposed to be the general election, when the Democrat named by the power brokers faces the candidate from the other party. But there is no other party -- at least not in most parts of Los Angeles, where Democrats are practically the only party.

Should the Republicans jump in? They shrewdly, though quietly, acknowledge that the national party's increasingly right-wing stances offer little that resonates with most of the region's working-class and immigrant-rich voting districts. That's too bad, because there are voters waiting for moderate and pragmatic alternatives to Los Angeles' Democratic Party machine.

Will there be someone else? The Greens? The Libertarians? Those and other parties often put forward little-known, underfunded, long-shot (at best) challengers. For now, it's a closed, and private, Democratic Party game.

Meanwhile, Alarcon flew to Sacramento for his Assembly going-away tributes Monday, just days after being back in City Hall for the welcome festivities and just months after he had his farewell bash on the floor of the state Senate.

And they say reporters are the cynical ones.

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