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Antonio Villaraigosa, Jack Weiss and Wendy Greuel campaigns rake in funds

Los Angeles' mayor and two City Council members outpace opponents in 2008 fundraising. Villaraigosa is running for reelection, Weiss for city attorney and Greuel for city controller.

January 13, 2009|Phil Willon and Maeve Reston

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and two of his closest political allies have outpaced their opponents in fundraising for the March 3 primary election, city campaign finance records show.

Villaraigosa has raised more than $2.7 million for his reelection campaign. The closest of his nine challengers, business trial lawyer Walter Moore, collected $127,901 in 2008.

All candidates for city office, including those running for City Council, were required to file reports Monday detailing contributions collected during the three-month period ending Dec. 31 and totals for 2008. Candidates had until midnight to file, so not all reports were available Monday evening.

In the city attorney's race, Los Angeles Councilman Jack Weiss led his top rival more than 2 to 1 in fundraising. Weiss, whose campaign began in 2007 and is chaired by Villaraigosa, reported more than $1 million in cash on hand after raising $970,478 in 2008.

Weiss' rival Carmen "Nuch" Trutanich, a lawyer from Harbor City who specializes in environmental litigation, raised $360,780 in 2008 and has a war chest of $451,000 in cash on hand.

Trutanich has received more than $112,000 in city matching funds so far. His campaign manager, John Shallman, predicted in an e-mail that Trutanich would receive an additional $180,000 in matching funds by election day. Weiss has declined matching funds, so Shallman said Trutanich expected to close in on his cash advantage quickly.

"The bottom line is, because we've agreed to the voter-approved campaign limits, we'll be receiving the benefit of additional money that Jack Weiss cannot receive," Shallman said, adding that he expected Trutanich to be "very competitive" by the election.

A third city attorney candidate, Michael Amerian, a city prosecutor who was recently assigned to the gang unit, raised just $230,505 in 2008. The Toluca Lake resident has nearly $267,000 on hand after receiving more than $69,000 in public matching funds.

Amerian, Trutanich and Weiss all have lent money to their campaigns, which is included in their fundraising totals.

Councilwoman Wendy Greuel's fundraising outperformed that of two other candidates in the race to replace City Controller Laura Chick. Greuel took in more than $614,000 in 2008, leaving her campaign with $691,540 in cash on hand.

By comparison, electrical engineer Nick Patsaouras -- who entered the campaign only three months ago -- raised $32,265 and had most of it available for his campaign. Business owner Kathleen "Suzy" Evans had just $702 on hand.

Patsaouras said he was not discouraged by Greuel's sizable war chest, saying he started his campaign late and had been trying to raise money during the holidays.

"She's going to outspend me, but I have enough money to send out my message and get on the air," said Patsaouras, who until recently headed the commission that oversees the Department of Water and Power.

For now, Villaraigosa has at least $1.8 million available to use against other candidates who have qualified in the mayoral race, all but one of whom are running with little or no money. His best-known opponent so far is Moore, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2005 and had no money on hand at year's end.

Moore, who is from the Carthay Circle neighborhood, said he would be eligible to receive city matching funds for his campaign of roughly $100,000. Moore is submitting an application to the City Ethics Commission for that money.

"I spend it as soon as it get it, because it does no good in my bank account," said Moore, who has collected more than $200,000 since launching his campaign in 2007.

Moore said he's raised enough money to prove he is a viable candidate, and on Monday challenged Villaraigosa to a debate. Ace Smith, the mayor's campaign manger, dismissed the idea, saying that Moore is not a serious candidate.

"We're not going to debate Lyndon LaRouche either," said Smith, referring to the former perennial presidential candidate who often complained about not being invited to the presidential debates.

Among the other candidates for mayor whose campaign finance reports were available Monday, none raised more than $3,500 in 2008.

Billionaire shopping mall magnate Rick Caruso had considered challenging Villaraigosa but announced in November that he would not run.

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phil.willon@latimes.com

maeve.reston@latimes.com

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Times staff writer David Zahniser contributed to this report.

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