Los Angeles mayoral candidates Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)
A day after a debate in which they told Los Angeles voters their prime focus as mayor would be promoting job creation, Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti took up the topic Monday, while also continuing a furious debate over union influence in their runoff election.
City Controller Greuel met voters at a Century City mall and handed out her glossy 35-page "Leading L.A. Forward" brochure, which includes a multipoint plan that she said would bring more jobs to Los Angeles.
City Councilman Garcetti talked with business leaders in North Hollywood about efforts to expand the aerospace industry in Southern California, saying he would look for ways to help with marketing, job training and government regulation.
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The campaigning took place amid of flurry of campaign finance and advertising activity: Garcetti launched a new ad hitting Greuel's support from the union for workers at the city's Department of Water and Power. The ad calls Greuel "the DWP's mayor." The Garcetti campaign will spend at least $715,000 through Sunday for air time on local television stations — a substantial buy that will go solely with the negative spot, as the campaign pulls back on the candidate's previously aired ad highlighting his biography.
Garcetti had spent much of a debate Sunday night at USC depicting himself as an innocent who was being relentlessly attacked by Greuel and an independent committee with major financial backing from the city utility's main union.
Greuel said Monday that the new ad showed her opponent to be a hypocrite who is lashing out now because he senses that she is gaining support. "I would like to quote Mr. Garcetti, who said desperate campaigns use desperate measures," Greuel said. "What we have seen is that we have the momentum. We have been growing in the polls, which have shown either I am up a couple of points or within one point."
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Garcetti campaign spokesman Jeff Millman rejected that assertion. "We aren't going to let the DWP union buy this election for Wendy Greuel," Millman said. "After months of attack ads from the DWP union and Greuel, it was time we exposed their alliance to take over City Hall to hike DWP rates and give massive raises and pensions to DWP employees."
Greuel had been outspending Garcetti, but sources told The Times that she has reduced her own television ad buy because her campaign accounts have run short on money. Greuel lent her campaign $100,000, according to documents filed with the City Ethics Commission over the weekend.
Candidates typically like to maintain and even ramp up their advertising presence as election day — in this case, May 21 — draws near.
But Greuel has been bolstered by the independent group Working Californians, funded largely by unions, which recently has been airing an ad in which former President Bill Clinton praises the candidate's leadership skills. Another independent committee backed by Service Employees Local 721 took initial steps to place another $175,000 in ads for Greuel, starting Thursday. The content is not yet known.
Garcetti lent his campaign $50,000 on April 19. The money was earmarked for paying off expenses incurred during the March 5 primary race and cannot be used on the current campaign.
Garcetti's new TV ad stems from about $1.5 million that a local for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has given to an independent campaign in support of Greuel. He says the controller would be in the pocket of the DWP union and that she has done nothing as controller to crack down on the municipal utility's high salaries and pensions.
"She never audited DWP's massive salaries and pensions," the ad charges. "Now the DWP union Super PAC is breaking spending records to elect Greuel. And tells the L.A. Times they're expecting raises."
Greuel has responded that the city's charter requires an audit of the DWP pensions every five years and that that review does not come around until 2014. The last time that study was completed by then-Controller Laura Chick, Garcetti did nothing to press for lower pay or benefits to DWP workers, said Greuel spokeswoman Shannon Murphy.
Greuel has also continued to press Garcetti to explain why he told the head of the city utility union in 2009 that he would "see what he could do" to delay of hearing that was expected to bring out critical findings about a ballot measure supported by the union.
When she wasn't counter-punching at Garcetti on Monday, Greuel was meeting voters and posing for pictures at the Century City mall. The brochure her aides handed out calls for a $50-million fund — mostly using money that would be contributed by the private sector — to back tech startups. The plan also calls for knocking down bureaucratic hurdles to hire more Los Angeles residents and buy from local companies when the city does business with outside contractors.
Garcetti's job pitch, meanwhile, came at a machine shop of United Aeronautical Corp., a maker of sheet metal and machine parts for aircraft. Garcetti said he would, if elected, divide the mayor's business team into economic sectors, with a specialist devoted to aerospace.
That message was welcomed by United's president, Bradford Beck, who said: "Every single person at this table, and everyone at this company, is grateful that someone is finally paying attention to one of the largest employers in Los Angeles."
"We're so pushed aside," he told the councilman, "no one really pays that much attention to us."
Times staff writers Seema Mehta and Michael Finnegan contributed to this report.