Tuesday, November 26, 2002
Molina, Becerra Call for Clean Campaign in 14th City Council District
By a MetNews Staff Writer
County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who last year expressed disgust at a campaign tactic by supporters of Rep. Xavier Becerra, yesterday joined with Becerra to urge candidates in the 14th council district race to back away from attack mailers and campaign tricks.
“Neither one of us want to be part of a campaign that is going to bring shame to this district at all,” Molina said, with Becerra by her side.
The two powerful Eastside officials were referring to mailers sent by a supporter of Councilman Nick Pacheco that attacked his challenger, former Assembly speaker and mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa. Molina backs Villaraigosa. Becerra supports Pacheco.
“We have all seen how negative personal attacks in campaigns can tear a community apart,” Becerra said at the morning news conference in Boyle Heights. “And so I repeat today what I have said publicly and privately in the past—that I deplore and denounce all personal attack mailers that have been sent recently to voters in the 14th council district.”
Ricardo Torres II early this month sent out mailers claiming Villaraigosa had “sold out the Latino community” and referencing “his white advisors” and “consultantes gringos.” It was followed up by a mailer charging Villaraigosa with marital infidelity.
Pacheco has disavowed any connection with the mailers and called Torres’ action “stupid.”
But Villaraigosa, in a response mailer received Saturday by 14th district voters, charged that the hit pieces were sent out by Pacheco’s “operatives.”
The mailer also reminded voters of Pacheco’s link to a phony telephone recording during last year’s mayoral campaign. In the message, a woman identifying herself as “Gloria Marina” asserted that Villaraigosa was a dangerous man who supported child molesters and rapists.
That tactic stung Molina, who was a staunch supporter of Villaraigosa’s mayoral bid. Becerra was also running in that race. Pacheco supported him, then backed James Hahn against Villaraigosa when Becerra fell far short in the primary.
A district attorney’s investigation found that the calls came from a phone bank rented out by Pacheco, and that some of Pacheco’s council staff—on leave to campaign for Becerra’s mayoral bid—were involved in the fake calls.
Molina and Becerra said yesterday that their rift is healed and that they work closely on the issues confronting their constituents. They called upon Pacheco and Villaraigosa to do the same, and warned that candidates who persist in personal attacks and dirty tricks could risk losing their endorsement.
“My endorsement is an important one,” Molina said. “I treasure it tremendously…and I’m prepared to say that if in fact we can’t get our candidates to honor this request, and speak directly to the issues, then I think my endorsement would be in jeopardy.”
Sheriff Lee Baca already has withdrawn his endorsement of Pacheco because of the Torres mailers.
The issue of candidates’ control over their supporters is complicated by the rise of so-called independent expenditures—a by-product of tough regulations on how much money candidates can raise for their campaigns and how they spend it.
Molina noted that she expected a great deal of “outside interest” in the race from gambling interests and labor. Money spent independently by those groups has to be reported, but they may campaign against a particular candidate without backing the opponent.
That makes accountability for negative ads and campaign tricks difficult.
Outsider interest may be out of all proportion to the power of the office because the winner will likely be seen as a leader of the city’s Latino electorate and would be in a good position to seek higher office.
Another complication is the question of whether an independent expenditure is truly independent. If, for example, Torres is found to have coordinated his mailers with Pacheco’s campaign staff, Pacheco could be penalized by the city Ethics Commission.
More candidates are expected to get into the race. The primary is slated for March 5, with the general election in May.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company