This Los Angeles Mayoral Race might have a different â€œswagâ€ about itself for South LA. Demonstrated connection and performance on issues affecting its community will be rooted in their efforts to be influential in electing the next Mayor.
Although South LA is prepared for the usual classic personal appearances at religious institutions, drop-ins at influential neighborhood block clubs, or political posturing at neighborhood council meetings, it is also prepared to strategically use some grassroots political muscle.
Rhetoric today from mayoral candidates wonâ€™t mean much to their constituents. The usual we see the candidates now and not four years after the election is done; and name politics is in the trash. Community stakeholders are questioning what these candidates have done for them lately; and if they can point to change, a new project, or cabinet representation on matters important to them locally. Also, the community is honing in on the street connection game and something more significant than participating in the Martin Luther King parade.
Many of their African American stakeholders are urging its residents to hold out on supporting any candidate until the later part of the race and to use their votes for leverage.
African American influence is in the math according to Koyaki Kwa Jitahidi of MA’AT Institute for Community Change and political consultant. “Given the lack of connection many of the major mayoral candidates have with African Americans in South Los Angeles – with the possible exception of Jan Perry – our community is positioned to play a major role in determining the outcome of the 2013 Mayor’s Race. Everyone remembers that Mayor Villaraigosa’s victory in 2005 hinged on taking African American support from James Hahn. In one area of South Los Angeles, Villaraigosa went from 38% support in 2001 to 66% in 2005.”
Jitahidi explains, â€œWendy Gruel, Eric Garcetti and perhaps Zev Yaroslavsky will split White liberals. Conservatives will likely choose between Austin Beutner, Rick Caruso, Gruel or even Perry. Latinos will go with Garcetti or Gruel, if Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa endorses either. In this scenario, African Americans become a key swing vote because of our relative high turnout compared to Latinos and strong ties to the Democratic Party.â€
Councilwoman Perry is not an automatic frontrunner for African Americans says Jitahidi, â€œContrary to popular sentiment, Perry is not assured the Black vote. While she has been a leader on the City Council, many African Americans see her more as an advocate for downtown interest. This will embolden Gruel and Garcetti, in particular, to make strong attempts to gain African American support.â€
For South LA, testing the waters and holding out translates into reforming bait and switch politics and igniting community engagement. With voter education and a higher voter turnout, they can defy mathematical statistics by increasing their political power base.