Los Angeles mayoral rivals Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel are both well-versed in city government, having each spent more than a decade in office at City Hall.
So why is each trying to run as the outsider candidate?
The latest volley of criticisms between the city councilman and city controller has focused on who is the more pro-establishment "status quo" candidate -- a label that is meant to plant a link to the city's financial woes in the minds of voters.
Last week, Garcetti lined up the backing of City Council president Herb Wesson, giving him the support of most of the council's current members. Greuel used Wesson's appearance with Garcetti at a South L.A. event as an opportunity to paint her opponent as the "status quo" candidate.
"Voters want someone who will shake up the system," Greuel said on Sunday, arguing she's the outsider candidate. "They want someone who is going to challenge that status quo."
Hours later, the same phrase was thrown back at Greuel.
"Wendy Greuel is the status quo," said Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman in an interview late Sunday. "How can she not be the status quo? She has been endorsed by every downtown power broker."
Garcetti was elected to the City Council representing the Hollywood area in 2001 and was elected as council president in 2007 and 2009, stepping aside after he launched his mayoral campaign.
Greuel has been city controller since 2009 and previously served seven years on the City Council alongside Garcetti. Her endorsements in the mayoral race include major city unions, including those representing Department of Water and Power workers, and police officers, as well as former President Bill Clinton.
Observers said part of the reason both are seeking to paint themselves as outsiders is to pick up supporters of Kevin James, a Republican who started the mayoral primary campaign as an unknown but finished third based in part on an anti-City Hall message that resonated with conservative voters.
"They're both seeking the outsider votes," said Parke Skelton, a Los Angeles political consultant who isn't involved in the mayor's race. "They're looking for those disaffected voters."
Voters have to parse through the candidates' status quo argument to understand the differences. Garcetti's campaign says Greuel represents the status quo because of her outside funding by the DWP union -- a powerful group interested in maintaining its influence at City Hall.
Greuel's campaign argues Garcetti's status as a city councilman can be tied to the area's poor unemployment rate, and cuts in city services to residents.
Skelton argues that while the status quo argument ultimately is "a little silly," because of their long employment history at City Hall, both Greuel and Garcetti have some valid arguments in labeling the other as the establishment candidate.
"It comes down to who is more believable," he said.
Defenders of Garcetti argue that Greuel's attack on City Hall -- a new line of criticism, launched two weeks ago after she hired another campaign manager -- is sloganeering. Garcetti has enacted pension reform, and made tough budget decisions, said Wesson, defending his fellow councilman at the rally in South L.A. on Saturday.
"This is campaign rhetoric," said Wesson of Greuel's campaign. "It was waste, fraud, and abuse, and now it's paralysis. It's not talking about the nuts and bolts of what you're going to do."
In the San Fernando Valley, Greuel supporters like Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, say Garcetti is to blame for the city's high unemployment and Los Angeles International Airport's "dysfunction."
"If you like the direction L.A. is headed, you should vote for Garcetti," Waldman said.
For Garcetti and Greuel, labelling one another as the status quo candidate also means admitting problems with City Hall -- and laying what they will do to overcome those issues.
In particular, Greuel has drawn criticism for not offering policy initiatives. She also has come out against layoffs of city employees made during Garcetti's tenure, raising questions of how she would have balanced the budget.
On Sunday, Greuel defended herself, pointing to the many audits she's conducted as city controller as evidence that she's willing to challenge the status quo. Those audits will help the city find waste, she suggested.
"I have been the city controller, the independent fiscal watchdog," she said. "I have taken on everything from the Department of Water and Power, to the City Council, to the mayor, to show we can do things better. Sometimes that doesn't always make you friends. It doesn't mean that people are going to support you, but that doesn't mean I am going to stop."
Garcetti, appearing at an event last week to announce James' endorsement, said he wants the Republican who spent much of the primary campaign criticizing both him and Greuel to now act as an adviser.
Asked what criticisms by James he agreed with, Garcetti said he believed the city could operate more efficiently, and be more business-friendly.
In terms of backing and endorsements, Greuel has more of the typical establishment behind her, believes Skelton. On Monday, she earned the endorsement of Rep. Maxine Waters, seen as a galvanizing political force for voters in South L.A. Both Greuel and Garcetti sought Waters' backing.
"Greuel has done more to cultivate relationships with the traditional bases of power," said Skelton. "It's a lot of the downtown business interests and labor, who are more often than not on the same side, behind her."
"But does that make her more of an insider than Eric Garcetti, who was City Council president?" he added.