Kevin James, an attorney and former federal prosecutor, is running for… (Reed Saxon / Associated…)
One of the tougher judgment calls in political reporting is giving the right consideration to unconventional candidates. Anyone can take out papers to run for mayor, for instance, but not all of them deserve the same attention and credit.
In the case of the mayor’s race this year, there are three declared candidates who clearly deserve coverage, if for no other reason than that they’ve proved their ability to run and win. City Council members Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry have won elections in their districts and hold public offices. City Controller Wendy Greuel has won a citywide election, giving her that additional credibility because that’s the same electorate she’s now appealing to in her bid for mayor. Meanwhile, L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky is considering a run, and his long service in this city and county make him one of its best-known public officials. Businessman Rick Caruso is similarly mulling a run; his personal fortune means that he could raise the money himself, so he needs to be taken seriously.
What, then, of Kevin James, a radio personality who’s also in the hunt for the mayoralty? This reader implores me to “QUIT SNUBBING HIM” (gotta love the ALL CAPS), but that’s not fair. In fact, I’ve devoted an entire column to James’ candidacy and have mentioned him on several other occasions. I’ll keep doing so as his campaign develops.
That said, I don’t think he’s earned the right to be treated with the same seriousness as these others, at least not yet. The only independent poll out there had him at about 7% among those who have a favorite (Garcetti, Greuel and Yaroslavsky all did better than 20%, and Perry came in at 16%). Garcetti, Greuel and Perry each had raised about $1 million by the end of last year for their campaigns; James had raised about $150,000.
From where I sit, James is doing well enough to merit some attention, but he has not proved he deserves the same degree of coverage as the others. That, incidentally, is not a judgment as to whether any of them would be a better mayor. It’s an assessment of the campaign, not the candidate as a person or as a potential mayor.
There are seven other declared candidates for mayor, by the way: Theodore Crisell, Jose F. Di Raimondo, YJ Draiman, Malcolm Mays, Addie M. Miller, David Saltsburg and Rick Young. As of December 2011, none had reported any contributions. I’ve not mentioned any of them in columns and, unless they show some signs of serious campaigning, don’t intend to.
Not everyone will agree on how much attention each candidate gets in this or any other race. But those are judgment calls that newspapers and columnists make all the time -- and that readers invariably second-guess.
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