Former Lakers great and current Dodgers executive Magic Johnson, right,… (Luis Sinco, Los Angeles…)
Highlighting the importance of the African American vote in the May 21 mayoral runoff, Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti held dueling news conferences in South Los Angeles on Thursday to tout new endorsements from highly sought black leaders. At various points, some of the participants even got a little testy.
Basketball legend Magic Johnson backed Greuel, saying that he selected the city controller because of her broad range of experience in the public and private sectors, her longtime ties to the African American community and the historic nature of her candidacy to be the city's first female mayor.
"We love this woman because she loves us. We love this woman because she's been in our community many, many years and the fact that she's going to get the job done," Johnson said, standing alongside a broad cross-section of religious, civic and elected leaders at a church on Crenshaw Boulevard.
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"Wendy, I am in your campaign ready to go door-to-door with you," he said. "We want to make sure you are the next mayor. We're going to make history like we did for President Obama."
Garcetti, meanwhile, picked up the backing of City Councilwoman Jan Perry, who said she chose her fellow council member because of his track record — and to send a message to special interests that spent millions of dollars supporting Greuel in the primary.
"There has been and there will be a tremendous amount of money donated to one candidate in this race from various special interests and I believe that we need to take a stand to let everyone know that the city of Los Angeles cannot be bought," said Perry, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor this year.
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Although Perry did not mention Greuel by name in her remarks, she could not hide her disdain for the controller as she took questions from reporters. During the primary, Greuel slashed at Perry's personal financial background in the closing days of the race. Greuel called her after the primary, and Perry said she did not return the call. She paraphrased poet Maya Angelou in explaining why: "Dr. Angelou says, 'Thank you for letting me know who you are.' So I'm clear. I understand. I got the memo. It was clear to me that I didn't need to engage in any false pretenses because that's not who I am," Perry said.
"The memo says I do not respect you and that I respect you so little that I would delve into your personal background and then mischaracterize it to boot and then buy time with my own campaign money and put it on websites all over the country," Perry said. "Instead of dealing with substance, she went to the personal. That was not necessary."
Greuel brushed off the criticism.
"We are public figures. Everything we are doing is [an] open book as people are making choices about the future," she told reporters after her news conference. "I received a lot of blows during this campaign, during the beginning. This is for the public to decide."
Earlier, while thanking Johnson for his endorsement, she flubbed the sport played by the former Lakers point guard who is now part-owner of the Dodgers.
"It is so important to me be endorsed by Magic Johnson, who has been giving back to this community all his life," she said. "We know a lot of celebrities come and go. This celebrity, this leader has been a person who has stayed in this community and given back."
"I grew up, Magic, watching you play baseball," Greuel said, as the crowd interrupted to correct her that Johnson had played basketball.
"You did everything right, I thought baseball too. See, I was thinking Dodgers today. Yay Dodgers!" she said, clapping her hands. "He can do everything. So five NBA championships, new ownership for the Dodgers, millions invested in our community, and an inspiration for Angelenos all across Los Angeles on dealing with the issue of AIDS. And [he has] been an amazing friend, particularly here in South Los Angeles. You have never forgotten."
Garcetti said he was "so very proud" to receive Perry's nod, saying that the councilwoman brought a strong independent voice to the mayoral primary and the two shared a passion for revitalizing communities block by block.
"There's a clear difference in this race. While others are running on rhetoric, we're a campaign of results. Voters can see the results themselves," Garcetti said. "No matter how many attacks people made against Jan or me, just walk the streets of our districts, just see the jobs on the streets, the cranes downtown, the cranes in Hollywood…. That's what Jan Perry and I are going to do together when I am mayor … in South Los Angeles and citywide."
Perry came in fourth in the primary, receiving nearly 16% of the vote with heavy support among African American voters in South Los Angeles. If those supporters vote as a bloc in the runoff, it could place Garcetti or Greuel within grasp of victory.