City attorney candidates: from left, Greg Smith, incumbent Carmen Trutanich… (Smith campaign [photo on…)
In a sign of how bitter the race for Los Angeles city attorney has become, two of the three main candidates on the March 5 ballot continued to hammer each other Monday, while the campaign of a largely self-funded, dark horse candidate appeared to pick up steam.
City Atty. Carmen Trutanich, former lawmaker Mike Feuer and private lawyer Greg Smith mixed it up during a radio debate on KCRW-FM (89.9)'s "Which Way, L.A.?" Trutanich and Feuer reserved their sharpest barbs for one another, with Feuer calling Trutanich's tenure a failure and Trutanich continuing to deride Feuer's lack of courtroom experience.
Also Monday, Trutanich launched a TV advertising campaign that echoed the inexperience theme. The campaign said the spot will begin airing this week on cable stations. Feuer says his broader experience running a legal aid foundation, then serving on the L.A. City Council and in the state Assembly makes him best qualified for the city's top legal job, which includes prosecuting misdemeanors; defending the city in civil suits; advising the council, mayor and departments; and vetting ordinances the council has proposed.
During the debate, moderator Warren Olney touched off one of the dust ups in asking how each candidate stood on Measure A, the proposed sales tax increase on the ballot. All three said they opposed it, but Trutanich added — erroneously, it turned out — that "Feuer just changed his position."
"I absolutely have not changed my position," Feuer responded.
After the program, the Feuer campaign produced a mailer that it said showed Trutanich had paid to be on a pro-Measure A slate, or endorsement list. But what he had paid to be on was a slate called "L.A. Voter Guide," which included endorsements not only for Measure A but also for several other candidates, including at least two who do not support Measure A. The disclaimer on the mailer states that an appearance on the slate "does not necessarily imply endorsement of" issues or other candidates on the mailer.
Slate mailers can be confusing because they often lump together candidates who do not support one another and causes the candidates may not agree with. Some candidates are included without their knowledge. Others pay to reach specific types of voters; for example, Feuer, a Democrat, paid to have his name on a slate sent to Republican voters.
The debate came at a good time for first-time candidate Smith, who has made millions of dollars during a 25-year career representing police officers and firefighters in discrimination and whistle-blower lawsuits against their local government employers. He has spent a lot of his own money, mostly on television ads. This week, he said he is adding $200,000 to his campaign kitty, which would bring his personal investment to $820,000.
The money will help Smith stay on television and keep airing a radio ad that started over the weekend, Smith strategist John Thomas said Monday.
The campaign also had picked up some notable endorsements lately. Backers include organizations representing such law enforcement groups as the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Assn. and, on Monday, the Peace Officer Research Assn. of California. Both groups backed Trutanich when he first ran for — and won — the office, in 2009.
The Los Angeles News Group, which includes the San Fernando Valley-based Daily News of Los Angeles and the South Bay-based Daily Breeze, also endorsed Smith over the weekend.