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Runoff election likely in 2nd Council District race

State Assemblyman Paul Krekorian and former Paramount executive Christine Essel are neck and neck in partial returns.

September 23, 2009|Maeve Reston

A former film executive and a state assemblyman appeared headed for a runoff in Tuesday's special election to replace Los Angeles City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, according to partial returns.

Assemblyman Paul Krekorian and former Paramount Pictures Corp. executive Christine Essel were jockeying for the top spot, according to partial returns representing a sliver of the nearly 124,000 registered voters in the 2nd Council District. Los Angeles school board member Tamar Galatzan, a deputy city attorney based in Van Nuys, was a distant third.

If no candidate breaks 50%, the top two candidates will face a runoff Dec. 8.

Awaiting results at his campaign headquarters in North Hollywood, Krekorian said he was pleased to be leading Essel in early returns after being outspent almost 2 to 1. He characterized the race as a stark contrast "between the candidate that is the choice of the largest developers and corporate interests in downtown Los Angeles, and the candidate -- me -- who is supported by the grass-roots neighborhood activists."

"The people of this district want to make sure they have adequate public safety resources, police and fire response times that keep us safe," Krekorian said. "They want to have land-use decisions that are made based on neighborhood interests and impacts, and not based on who has the best paid lobbyist. . . . They want to have hope that their city government listens to them and responds to their concerns."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, September 24, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 40 words Type of Material: Correction
Council race: In Wednesday's Section A, a photo caption with an article about Tuesday's special election in Los Angeles' 2nd Council District misspelled the last name of campaign volunteer Sheldon Kadish, who was shown with candidate Paul Krekorian, as Kadash.

Essel said she was thrilled by the early results and dismissed Krekorian's criticisms as unfounded, casting him as "a member of the political establishment."

"I want to go in and shake the system up," said Essel, who spent three decades at Paramount and has never run for elected office. "I want to come in and bring ethics reform and a business agenda that helps our city grow economically. I think that's very different from someone who has run for office five times and moved around a lot. I've taken a pledge to run for this office and this office alone."

The crowded field of candidates vying for Greuel's seat included seven others: Mary Benson, a Sun Valley-area neighborhood council member; Pete Sanchez, president of the Valley Village Homeowners' Assn.; Augusto Bisani, a restaurant equipment business owner; Realtor Joe Essavi; Studio City Neighborhood Council member Michael McCue; City Hall gadfly David "Zuma Dogg" Saltsburg; and Frank Sheftel, who owns the Candy Factory in North Hollywood.

Turnout was light Tuesday across the 2nd District, which extends from Sherman Oaks and Studio City at its southern border to Sunland-Tujunga at its northern edge. Though the election is costing the city $1.8 million, officials predicted lower turnout than at the March city election, which drew just 18% of city voters.

Facing a compressed three-month race after Greuel vacated her post to become city controller, all of the contenders accused city leaders of neglecting the needs of 2nd District residents and vowed to be more vigilant advocates for their share of services, such as tree-trimming and police.

They also promised to address residents' concerns that city leaders have been too permissive of development projects that they say have aggravated traffic and strained infrastructure.

Krekorian and Essel, who was endorsed by Greuel and former Mayor Richard Riordan, led in fundraising with $158,000 and $294,000, respectively, which allowed them to blanket the district with mailings. Both tried to fashion themselves as City Hall outsiders -- even as they raked in endorsements from unions and political groups. But they faced criticism from their rivals for moving into the district in May.

Krekorian moved to Valley Glen from Burbank, where he had served on the school board before being elected to the state Assembly in 2006. Essel left her home in the Sunset-Doheny Hills this spring for an apartment in Studio City.

Outside groups spent $86,600 in the first round but are likely to ramp up their efforts in the runoff. The political action committees of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters spent $56,000 to promote Essel's candidacy, while the Los Angeles County Democratic Party sent out mailings touting Krekorian's candidacy.

Krekorian was also endorsed by the Service Employees International Union and the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City.

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maeve.reston@latimes.com

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