Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, shown last year, has not made an… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Thursday waded into the heated contest to choose his successor, calling for two ads aimed at Latino voters that attack candidates Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel to be taken off the airwaves. Both were financed with independent donations not controlled by the candidates.
Villaraigosa, who has not made an endorsement in the race, said a TV ad from the super PAC Lots of People Who Support Eric Garcetti falsely portrayed Greuel as a supporter of Proposition 187, the 1994 state ballot measure that sought to deny illegal immigrants access to public education and other services.
"That commercial is out of line, out of step with a diverse city and has no room in politics," he said.
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Villaraigosa also assailed a Spanish-language commercial financed by a Greuel backer for making "outrageous claims" about Garcetti's ancestry. The mayor said it wrongly linked Garcetti with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Arizona law enforcement official who has supported crackdowns on illegal immigrants.
"I know Eric Garcetti. Eric Garcetti does not support the policies of self-deportation or the policies of Sheriff Joe Arpaio," Villaraigosa said.
The mayor's comments came as Garcetti sought to energize Democratic voters by campaigning with one of President Obama's top advisors, David Axelrod, an apparent effort to counter Greuel's endorsement by former President Clinton. Clinton, a hugely popular figure among Democrats, has appeared with Greuel and been featured in ads supporting her candidacy.
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Obama has stayed neutral in the race between two Democrats. But at an Eastside rally, Axelrod underscored Garcetti's ties to the current president. He recalled meeting Garcetti on a cold day in Iowa, where the young councilman had gone to support Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.
"Eric has become a tremendous ally for the president," the former White House advisor said, noting that Garcetti promoted Obama's healthcare and immigration reform agenda around the country. He credited Garcetti with leading a revival of the Hollywood, Echo Park and Silver Lake communities. "The best record of job growth in L.A. city," he said.
Garcetti had hoped that Axelrod would be the focus of the day. But he found himself starting the day by defending his opponents' record against the television ad created by the super PAC supporting his election.
"During the anti-immigrant era of Pete Wilson, Wendy Greuel was a Republican," the ad says, and seeks to tie Greuel to Proposition 187.
Rick Jacobs, co-chairman of the independent group airing the ad, said he would not remove the anti-Greuel spot because it is accurate. "Wendy Greuel was a Republican for not one, not two but 13 years. She was a Republican when Pete Wilson ran for governor and won. Had he not won in 1990, there would not have been a Prop. 187," Jacobs said. Greuel said she did not vote for Wilson in the 1990 gubernatorial election.
Garcetti denounced the ad on Twitter, stating: "I trust Wendy Greuel when she says she was not for Prop. 187. I hope everybody inside and outside the campaigns will act responsibly."
Greuel said that wasn't enough. She criticized Garcetti for refusing to join her request for all groups to halt all negative ads. "He said no, and I can see why," Greuel said after speaking to the Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce. "Because … we've seen in the last few days that they're trying to mislead the public, particularly in the Latino community."
Greuel, for her part, faced questions about another independent ad directed at Latinos, which questions Garcetti's loyalty to Latinos and shows him sneering while surrounded by flames. Dr. Feliciano Serrano, who paid for the ad, did not return a call seeking comment.
Backers of Garcetti said that it is Greuel's supporters who have misled the Latino community by sending mailers in Spanish and English, saying that she will enact an increase in the minimum wage from $8 to $15 per hour. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which has put $560,000 into a super PAC supporting Greuel and other candidates, has targeted Latino voters with the minimum wage message.
At the Sherman Oaks meeting, Greuel again took time to correct the record, saying she only supports a $15 hourly wage for workers in large hotels.
The back and forth Thursday illustrated the challenges for candidates in a campaign in which their biggest financial supporters — independent outside groups — are prohibited from coordinating with them but advance attacks that force them to alter their own tactics and messages.