Can Jan Perry, the Underdog, Become Los Angeles’ Next Mayor?

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  • Jan Perry, bidding to become Los Angeles’ next mayor, believes she will defy the odds and win the battle to preside over the nation’s second largest city.

    In a November 12 report, Los Angeles Times staff writer James Newton, said, “at this point in the Los Angeles Mayor’s race, Councilwoman Jan Perry lags behind front-runners Wendy Gruel and Eric Garcetti in terms of money and name recognition, but in recent weeks, she has found a potentially viable path.”

    With County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and businessmen Austin Beutner and Rick Caruso out of the race, Newton opined, “Perry finds herself with a surprisingly open shot at becoming the favorite candidate of business.”  Newton said the business community has not yet put its weight behind Perry.  Nevertheless, he noted, at this early stage of the campaign “they are without a standard bearer.”

    Campaign contributions from the business community would not only provide Perry, who said she will soon have substantial matching funds, with more cash, but perhaps give her an edge over in fund raising over Garcetti and Gruel as well.

    If she is victorious in both the March 5 Democratic Primary and May 21 General Elections, Perry would also break the gender barrier and become the city’s first woman chief executive and its third mayor of African descent.

    A victorious Perry would become the third black woman since 2012 to win a high profile, elective office in California.  That would be a stunning achievement, given that Blacks comprise less than 10 percent of the population in Los Angeles and the state.

    Kamala Harris, in 2010, defeated Steven Cooley, then the Los Angeles County district attorney and became California’s first black and first woman attorney general.  In a November 6 run-off, Jackie Lacey edged Alan Jackson and became Los Angeles County’s first woman and first black district attorney.

    Tom Bradley, elected in 1973, on his second attempt, was the city’s most recent black mayor, but not the first African American to occupy the seat.  A former councilman and attorney, Bradley was the city’s second black mayor and reigned for 19 years, until 1992.

    The honor of having been the first black mayor belongs to an Afro-Mexican, Francisco Reyes.

    Not only was Reyes the first chief executive of African descent to preside over Los Angeles, he was also the city’s first mayor.

    Reyes, who owned all of what today is the San Fernando Valley, served as mayor for three years, from 1792 until 1795.

    Perry’s most high profile supporter is Maxine Waters.  Although the wily veteran does not possess Reyes’ material wealth, she has enormous political capital, is a formidable warrior and has won a host of difficult battles.  Waters emerged relatively unscathed after her most recent one, an ethics allegation that threatened to stall, if not sink, her career in the House of Representatives.

    The congresswoman, along with Eighth District Councilman Bernard Parks, a former chief of police, have so far been the only major black leaders to publicly endorse Perry, who has been a city councilwoman for three sessions.  Term limits will force her to bow out of that body next year.

    To defeat the eight opponents who have filed formal declarations, including her most popular foes, Gruel, the current controller and Hollywood councilman Garcetti, many political analysts believe Perry must pull the lion’s share of African American votes.

    Without the overwhelming share of the black vote, which is approximately nine percent of the total number of ballots cast in citywide elections, Perry will have to increase her support among whites, Latinos and Asians.

    There are 1,767, 669 registered voters among the city’s 3, 792, 621 residents.  Some
    1, 188, 158 citizens are white, 1, 838, 822 are Latino, 426, 959 are Asian and 365, 118 are black.

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