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Hahn, Hertzberg, and Hunter Thompson

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As predicted in earlier columns, Mayor Jim Hahn and former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg are in a struggle to the death for 2nd place in the runoff, as the new Times Poll shows. Hertzberg has surged into a virtual tie with Hahn around 20%, and Villaraigosa holds a slim lead at 24%. Huggy Hertzberg has taken the first shot of the final week, calling for the resignation of several commissioners who also happen to lead unions which are supporting Hahn, and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars through Independent Expenditure Commitees. LAist agrees with Mayor Sam blogger Chief Parker that Huggy is right to attack these ridiculous appointments. The Mayor makes these appointments entirely at his own discretion. Isn’t this “pay-to-play” of the worst sort, especially since there’s a ban on Commissioner fundraising? Commissioners can’t fundraise, but they can spend hundreds of thousands through IEs? Shame on you, Mayor Hahn.

We told you this was coming a while ago, though, so we’d like to segue into the question of campaign coverage. You might have noticed the article in yesterday’s Times on how the mayoral race has become cinema or show. It lampoons each candidate for his perceived foibles and notes the silliness of certain campaign stops, while lamenting the difficulty of competing with the Oscars and rainstorms for local news coverage. It pokes fun at the very race it tries to cover, “unmasking” the stratagems each man hopes to use to get elected mayor. LAist asks: THIS is supposed to be the story that frames the race going into the last 8 days, or as Kevin Roderick puts it, the “final-week curtain raiser”?

Juxtapose this article with George Skelton’s insightful commentary on Thompson's now-lost style of campaign coverage. Skelton notes that unlike Thompson, reporters today tend to de-emphasize issues in order to cover strategy more; questions of policy and substance are lost in the background. Plus, while Skelton doesn’t mention it in his article, politics and politicians today are so TV-oriented that it’s much harder to cover policy. Isn’t this phenomenon Skelton describes, of overemphasis on strategy and lack of coverage on policy questions, perfectly embodied by the other article on the mayor’s race–-in the exact same section on the same day? It makes you wonder whether the Times’ editorial board made a conscious decision to focus on strategy in their coverage because LA politics was too “boring”. LAist has some advice for the board: don’t turn the mayor’s race into the same sensationalist crap we see in Federal races. What we need in local political coverage is to shed light on the various relationships between City Hall insiders so that our citizens actually understand what’s happening on the 3rd floor, both in Council Chambers and the Mayor’s Office. There are so many stories waiting to be told. Don’t shirk your responsibility to the City, and don’t make this City’s political scene go from bad to worse.