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Bill Clinton backs Wendy Greuel in L.A. mayoral race

March 25, 2013|By Seema Mehta
  • In addition to being an early and active backer of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, Wendy Greuel, right, worked at HUD while Bill Clinton, left, was president.
In addition to being an early and active backer of Hillary Clinton's… (Getty Images/ Associated…)

Former President Bill Clinton on Monday endorsed Wendy Greuel for Los Angeles mayor, saying the city controller’s proven track record makes her the right candidate to confront the city’s problems.

“In her many years of public service in Los Angeles … Wendy has personified good, honest and effective government, improving the lives of countless Angelenos while saving millions of their tax dollars,” Clinton wrote in a letter obtained by the Los Angeles Times. “And she’s not done yet. Los Angeles is a great city with equally great challenges, so it’s vital that Angelenos elect a proven, creative problem solver to lead them. That's Wendy Greuel. I urge you to join me in supporting her for mayor of Los Angeles.”

Clinton has often endorsed people who have been loyal to his family, either helpful during his time at the White House or supporters of his wife’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential run. Greuel fits both categories -- in addition to being an early and active backer of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, she worked in the Clinton administration at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

FULL COVERAGE: Los Angeles mayoral race

In announcing his support, Clinton highlighted Greuel’s time at HUD.

“When the Northridge earthquake struck -- causing so much loss of life and destruction -- Wendy sprang into action,” Clinton wrote. “She helped deliver over a billion dollars in federal emergency aid to Los Angeles residents and worked around the clock to assist families who lost their homes.”

Greuel said the endorsement was “humbling.”

“I am so incredibly proud to have the endorsement of President Clinton. I think part of what he said was that he has seen what I can do first-hand, that he knows the kind of leadership and the style of leadership I will bring to the city of Los Angeles,” she said, recalling living at a Holiday Inn in Pasadena for six weeks after the earthquake to ensure that federal resources were reaching the people who needed them. “This is for me an incredible endorsement from someone who was a strong leader, who was an individual who brought us to a period of historic prosperity. He gets it and understands that cities are the core of our country and is endorsing me to lead Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest city.”

Greuel plans to email supporters on Monday morning to alert them about the endorsement, and then hold a news conference in the San Fernando Valley.

It’s not clear if the former two-term president will campaign or raise money for the city controller, but his endorsement comes at a critical time for Greuel, whose campaign has seen staff departures and replacements with less than two months to go until the May 21 runoff.

Clinton is beloved by Democrats, and has special ties to two voter groups that could be key in the election -- Republicans in the San Fernando Valley and African American voters in South Los Angeles. Before President Obama was elected, Clinton was dubbed the “first black president” by supporters because of his deep connections with the African American community.

And while he was by no means favored by Republicans during his tenure in the White House, Clinton has gained in popularity as the years have passed, with some Republicans contrasting his centrist path, notably his accomplishments on welfare reform and a balanced budget, with President Obama.

A nod by Clinton is coveted by most Democrats running for office, but it is no guarantee of success. During the 2010 election, he actively supported Gavin Newsom in California’s Democratic gubernatorial primary over Jerry Brown. Newsom supported Hillary Clinton’s 2008 run, and Clinton had a testy relationship with Brown because of their competition in the 1992 Democratic presidential primary.

Clinton’s decision to endorse in the mayoral contest turns attention to the current occupant of the White House. As a sitting president, it’s more difficult for Obama to weigh in on the race, but he has a deep history with Greuel’s rival, Eric Garcetti.

The councilman was an early supporter of Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, and served as his California co-chair. He has maintained close ties to the president, and was among a small group of supporters invited to the White House for a champagne toast the night of Obama’s second-term inauguration.

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Email: seema.mehta@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATSeema

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