If you judge strictly by fundraising, you'd have to say that Councilman Dennis Zine is the man to beat in the race to be the next L.A. city controller.
But Ron Galperin, an attorney and onetime council candidate, is mounting a serious challenge. Though he has less than half the money that Zine does, Galperin has picked up the backing of the L.A. County Democratic Party.
And today, he added an even bigger endorsement, from former Controller Laura Chick.
Chick drew wide praise for her blunt, hard-hitting approach in two terms as controller. In endorsing Galperin, she did not say why she passed over Zine, who succeeded her as the third district council representative in 2001.
"It's a huge endorsement for us," said Parke Skelton, Galperin's consultant. "In addition to having credibility on these issues, she has a base in the third council district."
In an e-mail announcement, Chick praised Galperin's "courage, energy and drive." Since leaving City Hall in 2009, Chick has moved to the Bay Area, but she's kept a close eye on L.A. politics, backing Wendy Greuel in the race for mayor.
"Laura is in Northern California. She doesn't have a vote here anymore, so we're not concerned," said Zine's consultant, Rick Taylor. "Dennis will be a very activist controller, very similar to Ms. Chick."
Zine, a former police union president, has several vulnerabilities as a candidate for controller. Among them is the charge that he is double-dipping by accepting a council salary and a police pension at the same time.
Another goes back to his handling of an LAX construction contract a couple years ago. In that case, he argued on behalf of a contractor that had lost a bid
, without disclosing that his girlfriend was the lobbyist for the contractor. The episode prompted this priceless quote from the lobbyist, Veronica Becerra:
"It's a well-known fact that Dennis Zine dates quite a few young ladies in downtown Los Angeles. It's not like it's an exclusive relationship."
Skelton, Galperin's consultant, said he's working to force Zine into a runoff in May.
"When the race boils down to a one-on-one in the general election, there will be more focus on the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate," Skelton said. "Now it's about base building and making sure there's a runoff."