City Councilman Eric Garcetti earned the endorsement of former rival Kevin James on Tuesday, giving him the backing of all of the other major candidates from the March 5 primary for his runoff mayoral campaign against City Controller Wendy Greuel.
Greuel on Tuesday, meanwhile, offered a more detailed policy rundown of her platform in a major speech on the UCLA campus, outlining plans to reduce the budget of the mayor's office and City Council by 25 percent and establish a $50 million fund to create tech jobs.
Both candidates are seeking to differentiate themselves, firm up their bases, and attract voters before the May 21 runoff.
James, the only Republican among the leading candidates, finished a surprising third in the primary, starting the campaign in obscurity but building support through a conservative, anti-government message and financial backing from a Texas billionaire. He particularly showed strength in the San Fernando Valley, which has traditionally had more conservative voters than other parts of the city, and finished with 16 percent of the overall citywide vote. Garcetti has also won the backing of the other major primary candidates, City Councilwoman Jan Perry and tech executive Emanuel Pleitez.
A former talk show host who earned attention for his brash criticisms of City Hall, James frequently slammed Garcetti, Greuel and Perry during the primary for their lack of leadership while the city suffered through years of substantial budget deficits.
But standing next to Garcetti on Tuesday outside City Hall, James credited the former council president with being willing to "step up and admit" there are problems in city government.
He also praised Garcetti for recently staking out a position in opposition to two hot-button projects: Moving a runway at Los Angeles International Airport to the north, and a 55-story twin skyscraper project proposed for Hollywood.
Locals in those respective neighborhoods, Westchester and Hollywood, oppose the projects. Greuel has publicly said she hasn't made up her mind on either.
"That's leadership that I am talking about," James said. "And we're not seeing that from the other campaign. "
James' backing of Garcetti speaks as much about his support of the city councilmember as it does his frustration with Greuel. As he did during the primary, James said his biggest issue with Greuel is her support from the Department of Water and Power union, which is part of a group that spent $2 million on her in the primary.
"I think it's a conflict of interest," James said, pointing to the DWP union's influence at City Hall.
Garcetti praised James' critiques of City Hall, saying he'd like to retain him as an advisor.
"We need people to point out what we're doing right, and what we're doing wrong," Garcetti said.
Across town, Greuel shrugged off the James endorsement, telling reporters at an event in Westwood that she would rather have the backing of former mayor Richard Riordan, who recently endorsed her.
For the first time in her campaign, Greuel outlined major policy initiatives she would undertake if elected mayor. Tuesday's speech also marked a new chapter following the replacement of her campaign manager, Rose Kapolczynski, two weeks ago.
She offered voters numerous new policy initiatives, including a technology jobs fund, and a plan to cut the budgets of the mayor and City Council.
She said the $50 million fund would be modeled on a successful New York program and would involve partnerships with the private sector to develop new technology and leverage private capital.
Greuel also focused heavily on the Los Angeles Unified School District, promising more reforms. "Improving our schools isn't just up to the school district, it's up to each elected official in office," Greuel said. "It's up to every parent. I know that as a parent of a child in public school. This is the single biggest threat to our city, and I'll use my role as mayor to make progress. "
Noticeably, the speech didn't mention the two key components to Greuel's primary campaign: $160 million she said she had identified in city government waste in controller's audits, and a plan to add 2,000 police officers without raising taxes. The Garcetti campaign and other critics have questioned the validity of both statements.
But Greuel continued to hammer away at Garcetti. The City Council is unpopular with some city unions, who've publicly complained that Garcetti goes back on his word.
"Do (voters) want a fighter--a doer--as mayor?" Greuel asked. "Or do they want someone who is good at the handshakes, but who won't stand by his work or his commitment? "
During her speech, she also quoted UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. "Failure is not fatal. But failure to change might be. " ___