Mercifully, the Los Angeles Mayoral race ends next Tuesday, May 17th.
One of two extraordinarily unattractive candidates will be elected on that day, to serve in a thankless job that is impossible to do well.
As it was in 2001, the contest is down to the wire between the unpopular, ineffective and bland Democratic incumbent James Hahn and his overly-exuberant, unqualified allegedly-ex-MEChista Democratic challenger Antonio Villaraigosa.
Four years ago, Hahn staged a late come from behind rally to beat Villaraigosa, then the heavy favorite and MSM darling.
And, no surprise to this observer, according to poll information released this week Hahn has cut into Villaraigosa's big early lead—once as much as 15 points—to make their 2005 rematch interesting. [Hahn Gains Ground on Villaraigosa, By Michael Finnegan, May 10, 2005.]
(Cautionary note: The notoriously error-prone Susan Pinkus, Los Angeles Times Poll Director, conducted and analyzed the survey. Accordingly, it must be taken with a pinkus of salt.)
At the center of the campaign is the ugly but inescapable fact that neither candidate is able to convince voters that he is a man of integrity.
And with good reason!
Hahn is under criminal investigation for allegedly offering lucrative city contracts in exchange for campaign donations.
Villaraigosa, by the same token, cannot explain why wealthy Hispanic donors in Florida gave generously to his campaign. (Apparently embarrassed by speculation about future city contracts, Villaraigosa returned the money.)
And he is still dogged by his 1996 letter to then-President Bill Clinton requesting a pardon for Carlos Vignali, a jailed cocaine trafficker whose father had been a Villaraigosa financial supporter.
Furthermore, Villaraigosa, heavily supported by Hispanics voters, can't talk himself out of his earlier opposition (when he was district chapter president of the American Civil Liberties Union) to "gang injunctions" —an attempt to defend Los Angeles' streets from menacing Hispanic "youths."
Now that Villaraigosa has changed his mind and favors injunctions, observers have attached to him the most dreaded political label—flip-flopper.
Why does this mayoral election lack a fresh face?—specifically, an honest, good old-fashioned Republican? (Villaraigosa and Hahn, respectively first and second in the March 8 monster primary, are both Democrats…like me!)
If the California Republican Party, under the "leadership" of Chairman Duf Sundheim, had made good on its website pledge that it is "committed to electing Republicans to office in California" then primary challenger Walter Moore might have been one of the two finalists.
Unfortunately, like other recently defeated Republican candidates for high national office whose platforms criticized illegal immigration, Moore got the "middle finger," as he described it to me, from the G.O.P.
But the extent to which the California Republicans, doubtlessly persuaded by the White House, shut Moore out is illuminating.
Let Moore tell you in his own words how his party treated him…presumably because of his outspoken opposition to unchecked illegal immigration.
I asked Moore if he approached the Republican Party for assistance with his campaign.
"Yes, I approached the party in August 2003. It gave me no assistance; nothing pro-active. It wouldn't even identify me on its website or let me speak for 60 seconds during an [Presidential] election-night party in November at which more than 800 of my fellow Republicans were gathered to watch the election returns, even though there was PLENTY of time for me to make the brief announcement I requested.
"Linda Boyd [Vice Chairman, Los Angeles, California Republican Party] is the person I asked, and she refused; said it wouldn't be 'appropriate.'
"Imagine: a major gathering of the most politically active Republicans, and it would not be 'appropriate' for me to let everyone know there was a Republican running for mayor of THE SECOND BIGGEST CITY IN AMERICA!"
Ask Boyd. [Email Linda Boyd].
Perhaps, I wondered out loud to Moore, some existing Republican office holders offered a hand?
"Not a one. No offers at all. And they knew who I was. City Councilman Dennis Zine attended two functions at which I spoke as did Congressman Christopher Cox [VDARE NOTE: Cox should have been drawn to Moore's campaign since he is one of the most outspoken U.S. Representatives against illegal immigration.] And County Supervisor Don Knabe was present at another one.
"Ditto Duf Sundheim. He told me the party doesn't get involved in 'non-partisan' elections. That, in my opinion, was just B.S.
"There was zero support from any of them. The elected and party officials had zero interest in helping or even acknowledging my campaign. I wasn't asking for money, by the way; just the opportunity to let my fellow Republicans know I EXISTED!"
Did Moore receive negative feedback from the Republican Party, I asked?
"No. The party wouldn't even return my phone calls much less give negative feedback. I think what they were up to was trying to get Arnold and former Republican Mayor Richard Riordan's buddy, Bob Hertzberg (a Democrat), elected.
Moore's explanation for the GOP operatives' inertia:
"They don't care about policy or philosophy. Rather, it's a classic good-ol'-boy, you-scratch-my-back-I'll-scratch-yours situation. Power corrupts, as they say."
For example, Moore reports that Linda Boyd's husband, California Republican Party Treasurer Doug Boyd, accepted $20,000 to be a "campaign consultant" to Mayor Hahn.
Finally, I asked Moore the question of the hour: Who will prevail, Hahn or Villaraigosa?
"I think Villaraigosa will win, and the city will go straight into the toilet for the next two years at least. People MAY realize how bad it is in time for the next City Council election—in 2007—but it may take longer for the damage Villaraigosa does to become public knowledge. I expect L.A. city taxes will go up.
"Illegal immigration will be out of control. And Villaraigosa will appoint hundreds of unqualified cronies to the various city commissions, who will dole out billions of dollars to their business partners.
"It's going to be very, very, very ugly."
And yet, and yet…
Despite Moore's prediction, Villaraigosa still faces formidable obstacles during his final stretch.
No matter how you slice it, Villaraigosa's appeal lies only with Hispanics and the ultra-liberals.
Many pundits have forgotten that there is more to Los Angeles than those two voting blocks.
For example, last time Villaraigosa was defeated by an unexpected alliance of South Central blacks and San Fernando Valley whites (the latter still trapped in LA because the political establishment beat back its 2002 attempt to secede and incorporate as a separate city).
Will Hahn hang on? Will Villaraigosa becomes the first Hispanic mayor of Los Angeles since the 19th Century?
Will Angelenos even bother voting at all?
The answer, in ever-fickle Los Angeles, may depend on whether or not the surf is up.
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.