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L.A. ELECTIONS

City attorney, controller races head for runoffs

Mike Feuer takes early lead for city attorney. Dennis Zine leads pack in early returns in controller's contest.

March 06, 2013|Jean Merl

Former lawmaker Mike Feuer and Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich appeared headed for a May runoff election after a tempestuous campaign that pitted the wounded incumbent against two well-financed challengers.

Trutanich, battling back from his poor showing in a race for county district attorney last year, trailed Feuer as returns in the city attorney race trickled in Tuesday but was running ahead of private attorney Greg Smith. Another private attorney, Noel Weiss, lagged far behind.

In another citywide contest, three-term Councilman Dennis Zine and lawyer Ron Galperin also appeared to be headed for a runoff in the race for controller. Four other candidates were well behind.

The mood was upbeat at the Hancock Park home where Feuer watched election returns with supporters. "I'm feeling great," Feuer said, adding that his runoff campaign "begins tomorrow."

At his election night party in Studio City, Trutanich too was optimistic. "Let's keep focused and stay positive," he told about 60 supporters gathered at a pizza parlor. "The race is now on."

Although the contests for city attorney and controller drew much less attention than the marquee mayoral race, they offered voters choices among candidates that differed widely in background and style.

Feuer, 54, won election to the City Council in 1995, then, after losing a race for city attorney in 2001, moved to the state Assembly. Facing term limits last year, the Westside Democrat began laying the foundation for another race for the city's top legal job.

While in office, Feuer concentrated on combating gun violence and improving neighborhoods. He racked up endorsements for the current race from a long list of officeholders, including U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

During the campaign, Feuer played down his lack of courtroom experience -- something Trutanich turned into a line of attack -- and said his broad resume at state and local levels and years leading Bet Tzedek, which provides legal services to the poor, made him best suited for the job.

Feuer also cited Trutanich's feuds with the mayor and several council members as evidence that he would be more effective than the incumbent.

Trutanich, 61, burst onto the political scene four years ago when, as a first-time candidate, he upset then-Councilman Jack Weiss, Villaraigosa's close ally, to become the city's top lawyer. He had been a deputy district attorney before heading a private law firm.

Once elected, the blunt-spoken Trutanich cracked down on illegal billboards and cut the amounts the city spent on outside lawyers. But, as Feuer reminded voters, other elected officials complained that Trutanich was trying to usurp their policy-making roles. His biggest political blunder may have been breaking a pledge he made during the 2009 campaign not to seek another office until he had served two terms as city attorney.

The registered independent acknowledged he made "a mistake" running for district attorney, but argued he had been effective in office, saving taxpayers money by winning lawsuits and favorable settlements.

The wild card in the race was Smith, 59, a Democrat making his first bid for elected office. He has won millions representing police officers and firefighters in discrimination and whistle-blower lawsuits and spent about $800,000 of his own money on the campaign.

In the controller's race, Zine, 65, vastly outraised Galperin, 49, and had the backing of Villaraigosa and several council colleagues. But his Democratic opponents attacked the independent for receiving a pension from his years at the L.A. Police Department as well as his council salary.

Galperin headed a panel that looked at improving the city's revenue-collection systems and said he would find more ways to save money.

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jean.merl@latimes.com

Times staff writers Ari Bloomekatz and Joseph Serna contributed to this report.

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