With Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa about to step down, Los Angeles Latino leaders are wasting little time in rallying behind his possible successor—who is not Hispanic.
A group of the city’s most influential Latinos have endorsed city Controller Wendy Greuel, a Hollywood industry insider, in the upcoming mayoral race that likely will be determined by Hispanics who comprise almost half of Los Angeles’ population.
This week Greuel unveiled an impressive list of Latino endorsements, including newly elected Congressman Tony Cardenas, who is currently on the City Council, and State Senator Alex Padilla, who was president of the City Council when Greuel also served on that lawmaking body.
Among a long list of other major Latino endorsers are United Farm Workers legend Dolores Huerta and numerous community leaders.
While it would appear to be a major coup for Greuel’s campaign, other major Los Angeles political figures have not yet endorsed—among them Villaraigosa and other important leaders from the predominantly Hispanic Eastside such as Reps. Xavier Becerra and Lucille Roybal Allard.
The group’s endorsement of Greuel, though, comes as a blow to City Council Eric Garcetti, the only major candidate in the race with a Latino heritage.
Despite the Italian name, Garcetti is a fourth generation Angeleno whose paternal grandparents fled the Mexican Revolution early in the 20th Century. He has openly claimed that he “would be the city’s second Latino mayor of Los Angeles in modern times.”
Garcetti’s biggest Latino endorsements to date have come from former California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante and former State Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno.
Wendy Greuel runs for mayor of Los Angeles
Greuel, 51, has been one of the frontrunners in a campaign to be decided March 5, and she has been ahead in most of the early polling.
A former DreamWorks executive, Greuel also has the backing of DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg as well as his associates, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen.
Historically, Hollywood’s movers and shakers have focused on national campaigns, not city races, but insiders say it is different this time—primarily because of the longstanding industry ties developed by both Greuel and Garcetti.
As of midsummer, those two candidates alone had raised more than $2 million, most of it coming from the entertainment industry.
But as Villaraigosa’s historic election in 2005 showed, the Los Angeles’ Latino vote is critical in any city election. Hispanics make up 48.5 percent of the population in Los Angeles.
“I have worked with Wendy as a councilmember and as a controller, and while we did not agree on every issue I can tell you she always brought integrity and intelligence to the discussion,” Cardenas said of his endorsement of Greuel.
“I know that she is the candidate who will provide the leadership and fiscal responsibility we need to move our city forward. Wendy Greuel has always embraced the rich diversity of our city. Her election gives our city a historic opportunity and I know she will do an exceptional job representing the needs of all Angelenos when she becomes our city’s leader.”