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Another Shocker in the East Valley: Here’s How it Happened

Hillel Aron | July 24, 2013

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nury-martinez-dnLocal politicos are still recovering from last night’s shock result in the City Council District 6 special election, where former LAUSD Board member Nury Martinez stunned former State Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez, winning by fewer than 900 votes. Because of the exceedingly low voter turnout in the East Valley district, the margin was enough to give Martinez a healthy 10-point victory. She now holds the distinction of being the only female on the 15-member LA City Council. The mayor, controller and city attorney are also men.

In a tweet, LA County Democratic Party Chair Eric Bauman called it the “upset of the year,” and Martinez herself told the LA Times, “I feel like I just overcame an impossible mission.”

Few gave Martinez much of a chance after she came in a distant second place in the May 21 primary, finishing 19 points (about 3,000 votes) behind the first-place Montanez. The gap left Martinez struggling to raise money; most of her campaign staff left, including her political consultant, Rose Kapolczynski.

“There was some change [in personnel],” said Roy Behr, who took over the direct mail operation for Martinez in the runoff.   “But the field team was similar. And the closest supporters were there throughout. Those people stuck with [Martinez] and kept her energized.”

Along with Behr, many of the plaudits will go to Martinez’s husband, Jerry Guzman, a highly respected East Valley political consultant.

“Jerry was the engine that kept that campaign going,” said Mike Trujillo, a political consultant, who is also working for School Board President Richard Vladovic on a temporary basis. “He gave everyone homework, put it in a binder, and made everyone accountable for it.”

The result is something of a black eye for Mayor Eric Garcetti, who publicly endorsed Montanez, held a fundraiser for her and lent his photo to campaign flyers. Many of his supporters, including a large contingent of the “Latinos for Garcetti” clique, were pulling hard for Montanez — at least on social media.

“Eric Garcetti’s operatives were tweeting for Cindy, while [Garcetti’s opponent] Wendy Greuel’s operatives were walking precincts for Nury,” said Trujillo, who supported both Greuel and Montanez.

There was little media coverage of the race, in part because the result seemed pre-ordained. A notable exception was early last week, when Martinez revealed that she was “repeatedly sexually abused as a child.” That was in response to a Montanez campaign mailer that accused Martinez and the rest of the school board of hiding “the existence and arrest of a serial child molester from parents and teachers at Telfair Elementary School.”

The attack backfired, and Martinez’s effective parry spurred a multi-day news story that allowed voters to see another side of her.

“I think that it was all part of a narrative in which the voters in the district got to know who [Martinez] was and what motivated her and why she was running,” said Behr.

It should be noted, however, that since the story unfolded the week before the election, its impact on early voting by mail was minimal. Martinez won the early votes, albeit by a smaller margin than she won the at-poll votes.

Taken together with Monica Ratliff’s shock victory against Antonio Sanchez for the School Board, the election shows the unpredictability of the East Valley.

“This is twice in the last couple months that voters in the Valley say you, shouldn’t assume the outcome of the race before it’s run,” said Behr.

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