U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn, left, holds up the hand of L.A. mayoral candidate… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)
With Los Angeles facing the imminent possibility of having no female elected leaders at City Hall, some of California's most prominent female politicians joined forces Thursday to promote Wendy Greuel's mayoral candidacy.
Democratic congressional leader Nancy Pelosi, the only woman to serve as the speaker of the House of Representatives, announced she was endorsing Greuel to become the city's first female mayor.
"She's operational, she gets the job done," Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said during a round table meeting at the Feminist Majority Foundation's headquarters in Beverly Hills. "She's going to be focused on what she is doing here, but her election will lift up people across our country."
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Pelosi appeared with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro) and legendary Democratic party activist Roz Wyman, who in 1953 became the youngest person to win a Los Angeles City Council seat.
Speaking in front of vintage pictures of suffragettes, the women all returned to the fact that City Hall's only two female elected leaders will leave their offices this summer, with Greuel departing from her post as controller and City Councilwoman Jan Perry stepping down because of term limits.
"We could see a city government without one female in leadership ... that is totally unacceptable," said Boxer. She was first elected in 1992, the so-called "year of the woman," when an unprecedented four women won Senate seats.
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"I've never claimed women are better than men," Boxer said. "Some women are, some aren't." But without adequate numbers of women and minorities holding elective office, she said, "you're not a representative democracy, and democracy is threatened."
Greuel has made L.A.'s opportunity to elect its first female mayor a major theme of her campaign. A group called Women with Wendy boasts hundreds of members and hosts special women-only events.
A poll conducted by The Times and USC before the March primary found women appeared to be evenly divided between Greuel and her rival, City Councilman Eric Garcetti. But Chu said if women "commit to this race as volunteers, as voters, as donors," it could make the difference in the May 21 election.
"I tell you," Chu said, "if women come out and vote for Wendy Greuel, it will change the tone of this race. We will be able to make history."
Garcetti, who has cited his Latino and Jewish heritage to appeal to those communities, said voters don't ultimately choose candidates based on gender, religion or race. "Being a woman, being a Jew, being Latino . . . it just gets you in the door," he said. "At the end of the day people want a mayor that will lead."
He said he has strong support among women, noting he has received the endorsement of the California chapter of the National Organization for Women. He also said he has appointed more women than men to city commissions and to his council staff.
Garcetti took a swipe at Greuel's growing list of endorsements from state and national political leaders, saying "this campaign is not going to be decided in Washington or Sacramento, it's going to be decided in Silver Lake and in San Pedro and in Sylmar."
He was speaking at a park near the Silver Lake Reservoir with Councilman Tom LaBonge, who announced he is backing Garcetti. LaBonge said he was supporting Garcetti because of his track record of revitalizing neighborhoods.
"Wendy's a friend of mine, Eric's a friend of mine, but you make a judgment about what's best right now for the city," LaBonge said. "You've got to know how to move bureaucracy and move community, and Eric knows how to do that."
LaBonge, who is famous for his early morning hikes in Griffith Park and the annual calendar he gives out for Christmas featuring photographs he's taken around Los Angeles, has earned a reputation as one of the city's biggest boosters.
"This is the endorsement of Mr. L.A.," Garcetti said.
LaBonge is the eighth City Council member to endorse Garcetti. Greuel has two endorsements from City Council members.