As she defended a campaign shake-up from this past weekend, Los Angeles mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel on Monday announced a big endorsement -- former President Bill Clinton.
Days after adding a new campaign manager and a field operations consultant, Greuel defended the changes, saying they come at a critical moment in the election.
"When you go from the primary to the general (election), you are in essence starting a new campaign," said Greuel, appearing downtown Sunday with Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who endorsed the city controller.
Ridley-Thomas' backing of Greuel marked one of two major endorsements for her. On Monday, former President Bill Clinton endorsed Greuel, who he praised as a strong leader. Greuel worked in the Clinton administration in the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The endorsements follow a tumultous week for Greuel, who dramatically overhauled her campaign. She added Janelle Erickson, a longtime staffer to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as her day-to-day campaign manager. The position was previously held by Rose Kapolczynski, who is now a senior strategist. Sue Burnside, a veteran political consultant with field operations experience, was also hired.
Last week, Stacy Cohen, Greuel's field director, and three staffers, including Greuel's voter data director, abruptly left the campaign. Cohen and the three former staffers worked on
President Barack Obama's re-election campaign.
On Sunday, Greuel focused on the new additions to her operations. She dismissed a reporter's suggestion that new leadership, or "changing horses midstream," conveyed a lack of confidence in her campaign.
"We're not changing horses," she said. "We're bringing in additional resources."
Greuel declined to talk about the departure of the four staffers, saying she doesn't discuss personnel matters.
Asked about the departures again Monday during an event at Cal State-Northridge, she said they did not indicate problems in the campaign and that it's natural for people to "come and go."
"You all are the insiders trying to figure out this," she told reporters. "No one else really cares."
Greuel and rival Eric Garcetti came in second and first, respectively, in last month's primary. The two candidates face off in the May 21 primary.
Greuel's political consultant, John Shallman, who also attended Sunday's event, described the revamped leadership as part of a "new campaign."
"We're rolling out an enhanced program," Shallman said. "The campaign is just getting underway right now. We have eight weeks to go."
The endorsement of Ridley-Thomas, who represents parts of South Los Angeles, could help her with black voters. Garcetti and Greuel are courting voters in South Los Angeles, one of a handful of key battleground areas in the race.
Ridley-Thomas, who previously served as a City Council member, Assembly member and state senator, was the first black man elected to the county's Board of Supervisors. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which is also backing Greuel, spent more than $8 million on Ridley-Thomas in that 2008 race.
Ridley-Thomas said his support of Greuel comes as a result of "knowing her work, knowing her and ... seeing her accomplishments."
"What distinguishes her is her work ethic," he said.
Sunday's event marked Greuel's first public event since she re-shuffled her campaign.
Ridley-Thomas appeared protective of Greuel, guiding her away from reporters at the end of the news conference. He also shooed away a videographer after the man identified himself as working for the Garcetti campaign,
South Los Angeles leaders such as the Rev. Dr. Cecil "Chip" Murray and Bishop Charles Blake also have endorsed Greuel.
In his endorsement, Clinton praised Greuel's leadership in the weeks following the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
Greuel served in the Clinton Administration for five years, and worked at the Department of Housing and Urban Development when the earthquake struck. Along the campaign trail, she has touted her role in bringing federal assistance to the San Fernando Valley after the disaster.
At Monday's event, surrounded by photos of the earthquake's devastation, Greuel and supporters said she will bring the same leadership skills to the mayor's office. Local officials endorsing her included Supervisor Gloria Molina and former Councilwoman Joy Picus.
"Wendy is a smart, dedicated, and creative problem-solver. She knows how to make government work for ordinary people, and she's been doing it for decades, not only when times are good, but especially during periods of crisis," Clinton said in a statement.
Greuel said she doesn't know whether Clinton will come to Los Angeles to campaign or raise money for her in person, given his busy schedule.
"President Clinton has been a role model for me," she said. "He has shown what it means to be a leader, how to build coalitions and create jobs ... where they're needed most and how to (be) steady in a crisis."
Staff Writer Eric Hartley contributed to this report. ___
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