Wendy Greuel, center, is joined by EMILY's List President Stephanie… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)
Los Angeles mayoral hopeful Wendy Greuel got a potentially powerful boost Friday by winning the endorsement of EMILY's List, which could help her tap into a deep network of female donors across the country.
Under city campaign finance rules, City Controller Greuel and her rival City Councilman Eric Garcetti were required to spend all their money from the March 5 primary before entering the runoff. They now have 10 weeks to solicit the millions of dollars they will need to finance an expensive television campaign to reach city voters. That forced them to spend much of their time in the last week dialing donors, asking for contributions that are limited to $1,300 in the runoff cycle.
Garcetti headlined a fundraiser Friday at the home of film producer James Lassiter and has an event planned next week at the Los Angeles manse of billionaire Tony Pritzker, who hosted an event for 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney last year.
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At her announcement Friday with leaders of EMILY's List outside City Hall, Greuel highlighted the potentially historic nature of her election as the first female mayor of Los Angeles. She and others also noted the possibility that the City Council might be all male after July — currently men hold 14 of 15 council seats — a prospect one speaker labeled "shameful."
With the endorsement, Greuel redoubled her efforts to raise her profile among female voters across the city. Though the Greuel campaign hoped the prospect of electing the first female mayor would draw more women into her camp in the primary, a February poll by USC and the Los Angeles Times found no evidence that it was giving Greuel an edge.
EMILY's List, which recruits and supports female abortion-rights candidates, has helped scores of congressional and gubernatorial candidates expand their fundraising networks. In 2013, the organization — which claims to have a list of 2 million members — has turned its attention to the bids of female mayoral candidates in some of the nation's largest cities, including that of New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Houston Mayor Annise Parker, with the view that those positions could be pipelines to the governor's office and beyond.
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EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock said that in Greuel the group saw a candidate with a proven record in L.A., who could serve as a role model for young women and girls, and who had "worked so closely with women and family and children across the city." Among Greuel's accomplishments, one of her supporters noted, was giving birth while serving on the City Council.
"For women and men across the country to see more women in those executive positions really does open people's minds to the possibilities of more women governors, and ultimately a woman in the White House," Schriock said.
Greuel, who likes to say that she would be not only the first female mayor but the first "mom mayor," called the endorsement an extraordinary lift to her campaign.
It is not yet clear what role EMILY's List will play in Greuel's campaign — it could raise money for her through its donor lists or join with other independent groups to air ads and send mail on her behalf. Schriock declined Friday to draw any contrast between Greuel's and Garcetti's records.
During the primary, the California chapter of the National Organization for Women endorsed Garcetti, praising his progressive record and his work during his council years on issues such as domestic violence and eliminating a backlog in DNA rape kits — issues that Greuel was also heavily involved in as a councilwoman and as controller.
NOW President Patty Bellasalma said that of all the candidates the group believed Garcetti "most willing to create a more equal playing field" for women. Greuel was joined Friday by other women's groups that have endorsed her, including the Planned Parenthood Advocacy project.
Asked about the distinctions between her record and Garcetti's, Greuel noted that she has focused on issues important to women since the early days of her career as an aide to Mayor Tom Bradley, including after-school programs such as L.A.'s Best, affordable child-care programs and the advancement of women in the Police Department.
"I've demonstrated as an elected official that I come to this position with experience, but also with a heart and an understanding of what women struggle with," Greuel said.