I must admit, local elections can be a bit boring. For those unwilling to look underneath the surface of it all, they lack the glitter and shine that national elections seem to carry.
Little attention is given to local elections, where the real gusto of politics truly lies. Apathy, as it turns out, affects not only the young when it comes to local politics. It afflicts everyone, young and old. Not even the media itself seems to be immune.
The Los Angeles mayoral election, for example, is much more than a typical display of the various political ideologies found in the city as and embodied in the top five candidates: Democrat, Democrat, Democrat, Democrat, and Democrat. Whoever said our government was a two party system apparently wasn’t thinking of Los Angeles.
Yet behind this vast political “variety” lies a complicated web of past relations, old friendships, broken trust, and deception so intricate it would make the screenwriters of the latest teen show start drooling. Involved are politicians so cutthroat that they would literally be willing to sue their own father.
With such a “soap opera effect” to it, you would think the election would get more, or better, attention.
Yet few people would be able to recognize each mayoral candidate by name, or even be able to recognize them if they saw them walking down the street. Never mind that this is the mayoral election of the second largest city in the United States, with a budget comparable to that of several small nations. It seems interest would only be generated if the election were to be turned into a Fox reality show.
After all, local politics is, not surprisingly, a small world. The top five contenders have clashed before on previous issues, making this race a place to “settle the score,” so to speak.
One of the most apparent and talked about confrontations is between former city councilmember Bernard Parks and incumbent Mayor James Hahn. The two have a long history of clashes and disagreements. Parks’ bid for mayor has been interpreted by some as an act of personal vendetta against Hahn, who removed Parks as Los Angeles Chief of Police a few years ago.
Hahn and Parks collided even before that. When Hahn was a city attorney, the two bitterly disagreed on how to handle the police department’s “Rampart” scandal and whether there should be federal intervention in the investigation.
If there is anything that assured in politics, it is that grudges have a longer life than rechargeable batteries.
CSUN alumnus Richard Alarc?n has some webs of his own. He backed Antonio Villaraigosa, now his opponent, in the last mayoral race. The move pitted him against Alex Padilla, president of the city council, and as a result, has failed to muster support from significant players in Los Angeles.
But if there was a center to this conflicted back-story, it would lie somewhere near Bob Hertzberg.
The most “Republican” of the five Democrats, Hertzberg was even the roommate of Villaraigosa. The two weren’t so friendly, however, when over $3 million in campaign contributions to Democrats became disputed. Hertzberg allegedly said that Villaraigosa would give the money over to California Assembly Democrats, but Villaraigosa kept most of it.
Needless to say, this past quarrel has found its way into the election. Hertzberg and Villaraigosa are, after all, fierce politicians. Hertzberg even sued his own father over the assets of their law firm.
None of Hertzberg’s connections have been called into question as much as his position as a consultant to Fleishman-Hillard, a public relations company that has been accused of overcharging the Department of Water and Power, creating false bills totaling at least $250,000.
And even with all this drama, voter turnout will probably be relatively low. It doesn’t even matter that voters can have a greater impact in their communities by getting involved in this election, as opposed to national elections.
The best we could hope for is perhaps an after-the-fact mini-series about the race that, if we’re lucky, will compete for “Survivor”-scale ratings.