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Sacramento becomes a steppingstone to L.A. City Hall

Several state lawmakers are running for L.A. City Council, driven by term limits and by the chance to continue representing constituents in another post.

August 05, 2012|By David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times
  • Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield is looking to fill the seat being vacated by L.A. City Councilman Dennis Zine.
Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield is looking to fill the seat being vacated by… (Rich Pedroncelli, Associated…)

Los Angeles City Hall proved irresistible to yet another Sacramento politician, with Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield becoming the fourth state lawmaker to launch a bid for next year's City Council race.

Blumenfield, a Democrat from Woodland Hills, moved to create a campaign committee last week to run for the west San Fernando Valley seat held by Councilman Dennis Zine, who is running for city controller. Already raising money for other council campaigns are Assemblyman Mike Davis (D-Los Angeles), Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar) and Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles).

The musical chairs arrangement is being driven largely by term limits, which is forcing officeholders in both Los Angeles and Sacramento to give up their posts. All four candidates from the Legislature are taking aim at council seats that will have no incumbent next year. Larry Levine, Blumenfield's campaign consultant, said his client faced term limits in 2014 and wanted to make sure he could continue serving his constituents.

"This seems like the logical way to achieve that," he said.

Blumenfield's move is the latest sign that Sacramento has become a steppingstone for would-be council members, not the other way around. Council members earn about $179,000, or nearly twice as much as those in the Assembly, and their years in Sacramento can be applied to the city's pension system.

"It's a well-paying gig. They can potentially stay there for 12 years. And it's not simply coming home for some kind of middling political role," said Jaime Regalado, professor emeritus of political science at Cal State L.A., referring to the council. "It's the possibility of playing a fundamental role on a very powerful political body."

Cedillo is running for the Eastside seat being vacated by Councilman Ed Reyes. Fuentes is looking to replace Councilman Richard Alarcon in the northeast San Fernando Valley. And Davis is running in South Los Angeles for the office held by Councilwoman Jan Perry, now a candidate for mayor.

If all four win, the council could have as many as eight of its 15 members coming from the Legislature. But most likely, the maximum would be seven because Councilman Tony Cardenas, a former assemblyman, is favored to win a seat in Congress. Assemblyman Mike Feuer could further add to City Hall's Sacramento bench if he unseats City Atty. Carmen Trutanich.

Last week's announcement means Blumenfield will be running in the March council campaign while also seeking reelection on the November ballot.

Small business owner Cary Iaccino, who is also running for Zine's seat, predicted that Blumenfield would have an easy time raising money, given his role in state government. But he warned that Sacramento is very unpopular with voters.

"The state is still in the red by many billions of dollars, and now they're asking for a tax increase," he said.

City Hall is home to six former state lawmakers: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Councilmen Paul Koretz, Paul Krekorian, Cardenas and Herb Wesson –- all of whom served in the Assembly — as well as Alarcon, a former state senator. Alarcon is running for an Assembly seat, an office he won in 2006 but quickly abandoned in order to serve on the City Council.

Villaraigosa must leave the mayor's office next year because of term limits.

david.zahniser@latimes.com

Times staff writer Anthony York contributed to this report.

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