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Council District 15: Endorsements and the Jan. 17 runoff

December 16, 2011 | 12:06 pm

City Council 15th district election Buscaino Furutani San Pedro Wilmington Watts Harbor City Harbor Gateway Gordon Teuber Robert Greene

LAPD officer Joe Buscaino and Assemblyman Warren Furutani are running hard to win the open City Council seat in District 15, which extends from Watts south along the two shoestring strips that are Harbor Gateway to Harbor City, Wilmington and San Pedro. The runoff election is scheduled for Jan. 17, but early mail voting begins next week. In a special election like this one, with nothing else on the ballot and no one from outside the district voting on anything, the mail-in vote is key.

BuscainoBuscaino and Furutani came in first and second, respectively, in the Nov. 8 race to succeed Janice Hahn, who left the council earlier this year after she won a special election to Congress to replace retiring Rep. Jane Harman. The Times endorsed Hahn in that race, so chalk one up for us. On the other hand, we endorsed Hahn's deputy, Gordon Teuber, in the election to replace her on the council -- for all the good it did him. Teuber came in sixth in a field of 11.

Why Teuber? Members of the editorial board were pretty unimpressed with all the candidates, including Buscaino and Furutani. Both seemed too tied to labor and unable to exert sufficiently independent stances when it comes to making important budget and personnel decisions. We thought Teuber had the best combination of know-how, independence and perspective for the job. That doesn't mean we expected him to win it, and frankly, we probably didn't help by waiting until the weekend before election day, after so many mail votes were already cast, to publish our endorsement.

FurutaniLong gone are the days (the turn of the 20th century up through the very early '60s) when this newspaper alone could crown a candidate with its endorsement. That power now belongs to labor unions, business groups, political parties, other elected officials and, sure, sometimes a thumbs-up from The Times, other newspapers and, increasingly, blogs and websites. Except, of course, in the too-rare election when a candidacy itself motivates voters to consider all points of view and then act completely independently.

Our goal with endorsements in the modern era is neither to designate winners nor predict them, but to give as honest and straightforward an assessment as we're able of who we believe the best candidate is, and why, and what voters should demand of that person. It's different from the approach of interest groups, which choose based on what the candidate can do for them. Of course, we'd like our pick to win. And we're an opinionated bunch, so we have very definite thoughts about what qualities and qualifications would serve the city best. We do our best to be clear to our readers about those thoughts.

Members of the editorial board interviewed the candidates on Monday, and this time we tried something different. Endorsement meetings are usually off the record, but for the runoff we made our discussions on the record, and recorded them. Over the coming days we'll include on this blog recorded portions and/or transcripts of our discussions. And we'll be frank about what we thought of the candidates' answers to our questions.

We will publish our runoff endorsement later this month. In the meantime, feel free to offer up your own questions of the candidates, and if we find them especially interesting, we'll pass them along and share their responses.


(Click on map to see full-size image)

--Robert Greene

Photos, from top to bottom: Harbor Gateway, Joe Buscaino and Warren Furutani. Credit: Robert Greene / Los Angeles Times

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