News Column

Greuel Hires Villaraigosa Aide in LA Mayor Race

March 25, 2013

Dakota Smith

City Controller and mayor hopeful Wendy Greuel is relieving her current campaign manager of her day to day duties, and turning to a veteran Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa staffer to help her in the runoff election.

In a major shake-up, Greuel has hired Janelle Erickson, former deputy chief of staff to Villaraigosa, as her new campaign manager.

Erickson will take over for Rose Kapolczynski, who most recently held that position.

Kapolczynski will remain on with the campaign as a senior strategist, Greuel said in a statement.

Greuel also hired Jim Dantona as her policy director. Dantona worked for Greuel when she served on the City Council.

The shift in strategy comes two days after Greuel's field director and several staff members departed the team, and amid complaints about the direction of Greuel's campaign.

Greuel billed herself as a fiscal hawk at the start of the race, but that image began to unravel for some when she pledged to hire 3,000 cops and fire fighters. And while Greuel has drawn business and labor support, she's given voters few specific goals on how she would spur job growth or rein in city employee costs.

Greuel placed second in last month's primary and faces rival Eric Garcetti in the May runoff.

In a statement on Saturday, Greuel touted her new hires.

"I'm thrilled that we are expanding our campaign team for the general election to join strong leaders such as Rose and (political consultant) John (Shallman)," Greuel said. "We've made a lot of progress in our campaign -- and I know what we need to do in this final push to May 21."

In addition to working for the mayor, Erickson served as Greuel's campaign manager on her first City Council campaign. Dantona, who most recently worked for City Councilman Tony Cardenas, also worked as the spokesman for the now-defunct Community Redevelopment Agency, under CRA head Chris Essel. Greuel helped Essel in Essel's unsuccessful bid for City Council.

For his part, Shallman billed the revamped campaign as a reunion of sorts.

"The campaign is back to our original team and we've never lost for Wendy," he said.

Last week, Stacy Cohen, Greuel's campaign field director, departed the campaign. Data director Joe Kavanagh and regional field directors Maya Hutchinson and Marisa Kanof also left, said campaign spokesman Dave Jacobson

Jacobson declined to comment on their departures.

In a statement released Friday, Greuel indicated her field program would be expanded citywide, and announced the hiring of field strategist Sue Burnside, who previously worked on Greuel's City Council and City Controller races. Burnside has a reputation for running campaigns that use paid phone bankers and paid walkers.

Cohen conveyed a grassroots style in email blasts sent from the Greuel campaign over the last two months. Cohen formerly worked as the California state field director for President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign.

Mary Jane Stevenson worked as Cohen's boss on the Obama campaign. She now backs Garcetti, and is helping raise independent funds for the councilman.

"(Cohen) and her team are some of the best field operatives in the business," Stevenson said in a brief interview Saturday. She said any campaign would be disappointed to lose them.

Efforts to reach Cohen were unsuccessful.

Speaking strictly about the hiring of Burnside, Eric Bauman, chairman of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, which hasn't endorsed anyone, said it's not unheard of for political campaigns to shift tactics so close to an election.

"When campaigns change strategy late in the game," Bauman said, "it's often because they think a new approach is needed to achieve voter turnout objectives."



Source: (c)2013 the Daily News (Los Angeles) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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