Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa snubbed City Attorney Carmen Trutanich on Thursday and endorsed his opponent, Mike Feuer, in the city's March primary election.
While Villaraigosa would not directly criticize Trutanich, he praised Feuer for his honesty and ability to work with a wide spectrum of groups -- qualities that critics have said Trutanich lacks.
"That's the kind of person we're looking for -- someone who's honest, who has integrity," Villaraigosa said in a news conference in Boyle Heights.
"We're looking for a city attorney who's tough on the issues, who can work with a broad cross section of communities."
Villaraigosa and Feuer have known each other about 20 years and worked on gun control
legislation together while Villaraigosa was state Assembly speaker and Feuer was on the City Council in the '90s.
Feuer authored several pieces of gun control legislation as a councilman and assemblyman and, given the recent mass shooting of schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., vowed to enforce them if elected in the spring.
"The city attorney should be a leading voice here in the city of Los Angeles tackling gun violence," Feuer said. "When I'm city attorney, I'm going to create a gun violence prevention and safety unit. I'm going to reach out to the U.S. attorney and the district attorney so we can forge a guns task force together."
"I'm going to have a zero tolerance policy for any gun violations in the city."
Trutanich, meanwhile, downplayed the significance of the mayor endorsing his rival, saying "I don't think (Villaraigosa) has an appreciation of what we do in this office."
At his own news conference in front of Los Angeles City Hall, Trutanich said while the mayor has championed the Los Angeles Police Department, he slashed the budget for the City Attorney's Office from about $117 million to about $75 million currently.
"Law enforcement starts with police enforcement but it doesn't end there," he said. "It begins with an arrest, it ends with a prosecution."
Despite the budget cuts, Trutanich said he has an 86 percent success rate in civil verdicts, saved the city millions in potential civil damage awards, and collected taxes and debts that were previously deemed uncollectible.
Trutanich has faced criticism during his first term for an abrasiveness even with other city officials that has not won him many friends at City Hall. He was also criticized for breaking a promise to not seek higher office until serving two terms as city attorney. Last year, Trutanich campaigned for district attorney and was seen as a frontrunner, but failed to finish in even the top two during the primary.
"Under Mr. Trutanich's leadership, we've seen a focus on contentiousness and divisiveness -- fighting within City Hall as opposed to trying to find solutions to our toughest problems," Feuer said.
"His priorities are not the priorities of the city," Feuer added. "He's focused on ticket scalpers, street artists and cancer patients (by going after medical marijuana dispensaries), and I think that we should be focused on the big issues in the city -- lifting up our neighborhoods, assuring safe schools, job creation."
Trutanich responded: 'When you go see an attorney, do you ask him: 'Are you a nice guy?' or 'Can you win?"'
The other candidates in the race are private attorneys Noel Weiss and Greg Smith.
Villaraigosa had also endorsed Trutanich's opponent in his first election four years, City Councilman Jack Weiss.