Council District 15: The Capitol contingent
If Warren Furutani is elected to the City Council on Jan. 17, he would bring to six the number of former members of the state Legislature who took the demotion to serve in City Hall.
Except that it's not really a demotion. Members of the Los Angeles City Council are paid $178,789 annually and can serve up to 14 years if they are first elected to fill a vacancy, as would be the case with Furutani. Most members of the state Assembly and Senate get $95,291 (those in leadership positions get slightly more); Assembly members can serve six years, senators eight. True, if all the chips fall just right for a state lawmaker, he or she can squeeze out as much as 15 years from the Capitol, but that would involve switching legislative houses and other inconveniences.
Council President Herb Wesson was elected to the Assembly in 1998 and served as speaker from 2002 to 2004. He went to the City Council in 2005.Tony Cardenas served three terms in the Assembly; he is in his third term on the council. Richard Alarcon served on the council, then went to the Senate, was in the Assembly for about three months, then was reelected to the council. Paul Koretz left the Assembly in 2006 and was elected to the council in 2009. Paul Krekorian was in the Assembly for two terms before being elected to the council in 2010.
Antonio Villaraigosa was Assembly speaker from 1998 to 2000. He failed in his effort to move directly from the Capitol to the mayor's office, and was elected to the City Council in 2003. He became mayor in 2005.
In a Dec. 8 story in the L.A. Weekly, Hillel Aron wrote that it was a "curious choice for Los Angeles voters, to transfer state legislators — a group so derided that they enjoy only a 19 percent approval rating — to the L.A. City Council." Aron noted that in addition to Furutani, Assemblymen Gil Cedillo, Felipe Fuentes and Mike Davis are running for council seats in 2013, and that "Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield is considering a run." Read Aron's story here.
One of the fringe benefits of doing time in Sacramento is that a host of your sympathetic colleagues will dip into their own campaign treasuries to fund your run for City Hall. Contributors who intended to give to, for example, Blumenfield's 2012 reelection committee or Fabian Nunez for Treasurer 2014 may see a portion of their donation being re-gifted to Furutani for City Council.
Campaign records filed with the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission show that in the campaign leading up to the Nov. 8 primary, and in the weeks between that election and Dec. 3, reelection committees for 38 Assembly and Senate Democrats gave the maximum $500 donation to Furutani's council campaign (some gave twice that, as is allowed -- $500 for the November election, then another $500 for the Jan. 17 runoff).
When you add in donations from legislative campaigns for people who haven't even been elected yet, and campaigns for school boards, community college district boards and Congress, 55 committees (including the one belonging to current Speaker John A. Perez) gave $28,525 to Furutani's effort. Six current and former lawmakers, instead of opening their campaign treasuries, reached into their own pockets to give their colleague $2,950.
Those donations are a fraction -- but a significant one -- of the $345,832.93 that Furutani raised during that period.
The next contribution report, covering most of December, is due Thursday.
Current and aspiring Sacramento lawmakers may feel that they're getting off cheap when they give to a City Council campaign. They're usually asked to give to each other (Democrats to Democrats, of course, and Republicans to Republicans). That can run you $3,900 per candidate per election, so that comes out to $7,800 under state limits for a colleague who makes it past the primary and into the general election. Imagine almost 80 incumbent Democrats in the Capitol each coming to you for $7,800, each making promises to return the favor (or threats to instead support an opponent if you don't dig deep).
Los Angeles city law limits contributions from each donor to $500 per candidate, per election. That makes Furutani's run for the council a bargain.
One Democratic assemblyman broke ranks. Mike Gatto, who represents portions of Glendale, Burbank and Silver Lake, had his campaign committee give $500 to Furutani's opponent, Joe Buscaino.
Buscaino "is the best candidate for the district," Gatto said. "He brings new energy to the race. He reminds me of myself when I was first running."
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-- Robert Greene
Photo: Former Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson, right, who easily defeated two novices in the 10th District, is congratulated by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on election night on Nov. 8, 2005, at the Radisson Hotel in Los Angeles. Behind them are City Council members Eric Garcetti, at far left, and Dennis Zine, at far right. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times.