Mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti speaks at a rally in Leimert Park with Herb… (Joel Rubin / Los Angeles…)
Surrounding himself with the City Council’s three African American members, mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti traveled Saturday morning to Leimert Park -- the historic heart of black Los Angeles -- for a rally in which he sought to galvanize support among black voters.
Speaking before a crowd of just a few dozen people, Garcetti presented himself as a candidate with strong family ties to South Los Angeles, speaking about the barber shop his grandfather owned a few miles away.
He also touched on issues that resonate with many black Angelenos, making references to crime and a debate over whether the park will be a stop on a future rail line.
“We’ve got a community that deserves transit and a transit stop right here, wondering if they will get the sort of equity and opportunities that other places have,” Garcetti said, drawing applause. “And we can brag about this being the safest year in Los Angeles since Dwight Eisenhower was president, but tell that to a community that still hears gunshots every weekend.”
Garcetti is banking on the endorsements of the three black council members -- Bernard Parks, Jan Perry and Council President Herb Wesson -- to help his chances of winning the black vote on election day.
Perry, who enjoyed strong support in South Los Angeles in her failed bid for mayor, praised Garcetti for his work as a council member on affordable housing, job creation, and public safety.
“I know that we need a mayor who has already tackled challenging issues,” she told the crowd.
Perry also made a thinly veiled attack on Wendy Greuel, Garcetti's opponent in the May 21 runoff, on an issue that Garcetti and others have hit throughout the campaign.
Not mentioning Greuel by name, Perry portrayed her as a candidate beholden to labor groups who have contributed heavily to her campaign.
“It’s important to choose the right person ... to take the city in the direction we need to go, and to communicate to people that our city cannot be bought. Folks have already thrown down $7 million to have their way with us. We have the power in our hands to defeat them.”
Wesson, who announced his endorsement Saturday, said “it was very difficult to choose between friends,” referring to Greuel and Garcetti. Garcetti’s character made him the right person for the job, Wesson said, highlighting Garcetti’s political skills and accomplishments during his years on the council and his decision to enlist in the Navy during a time of war.
Wesson also returned to one of the central points of friction running through campaign, praising Garcetti for the “courage” he showed by pursuing pension reform for city workers despite the wedge it drove between him and union leaders. Wesson told the crowd he had told Garcetti that he could keep out of the spotlight on the issue and let Wesson take the brunt of the criticism, but that Garcetti insisted on coming out publicly in support of the reforms.
“You saw all the heat he’s taken from unions,” Wesson said in an interview. “I gave him an out, but he didn’t want it. That’s courage.”
The presence of Parks, Perry and Wesson together on stage marked something of a coup for Garcetti, since the three haven't been on friendly terms ever since a fight over voter redistricting last year.
Saying he stood on “a stage full of warriors,” Garcetti went after Greuel, also not mentioning her by name. “If you don’t get out there and run on results then you’re running on rhetoric,” he said. “This campaign is a contrast … while they’re identifying problems, this is a stage full of problem solvers. And while others are out there trying to depress the vote by saying negative things and going after individuals, we are going to lift this campaign up and make it about the issues and the communities that are Los Angeles.”
For her part, after rallying supporters in San Pedro, Greuel took a dig at Garcetti and the council members who support him. The fact that he has the backing of nearly every council member who has made an endorsement, she said, was evidence that Garcetti represents the status quo, while she has been critical of the council in her role as city controller.
“Sometimes they are all going to stick together. That’s OK,” she said in an interview. “Sometimes, as controller, I’ve known you don’t always make people happy when you highlight what they’re doing wrong. You don’t always make them happy when you say, ‘You’re not doing the best job you possibly can to create the jobs that I think are so necessary, to be able to stop the gridlock and make sure we are spending that money efficiently.’ ”