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Santa Monica’s Sheila Kuehl Racks Up Cash, Endorsements in County Race

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By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

January 6, 2014 -- The race to replace outgoing Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky will heat up this week and former State Senator Sheila Kuehl is ready.

With less than five months to go before the June 3 primary election, Kuehl is backed by a war chest of $427,000 and dozens of endorsements from political peers, including two former Los Angeles City controllers and former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

But with Bobby Shriver -- a member of the Kennedy clan and a former Santa Monica mayor -- and set to announce his candidacy and former L.A. mayoral hopeful Wendy Greuel still contemplating a run, the race to fill the seat Yaroslavsky has held since 1994 is about to get crowded.

“I feel very optimistic. I feel great,” said Kuehl, referring to the upcoming battle to represent L.A County’s 3rd district, which is home to about 1.9 million people and includes Santa Monica, West Hollywood, San Fernando, Malibu and parts of Los Angeles.

Since March, Keuhl has run largely unopposed for the seat, one of five on the County Board of Supervisors. This year, Yaroslavsky terms out under a new law after three decades in the position.
 
To date, only former Malibu mayor Pamela Conley Ulich and West Hollywood City Councilmember John Duran have entered the ring as Kuehl’s competition.

Kuehl, who is working with veteran L.A. political consultant Parke Skelton, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and gotten the support of top politicians.

She told The Lookout Friday that an informal accounting of her campaign finances showed a total of $427,000.

Kuehl said because she opted take a voluntary campaign expenditure limit -- approximately $1.4 million -- she is able to take as much as $1,500 from individual donors.

Candidates who don’t accept a voluntary spending limit can take contributions only up to $300, she said.

“I’m not a trust fund baby,” Kuehl said. “I have to rely on contributors.”

When Shriver first ran for Santa Monica City Council in 2004, he spent $327,000, about a third of which was his own money. That year, he won by the largest margin of victory Santa Monica had seen in two decades.

According to campaign finance documents, among Kuehl’s contributors are Chris Harding, a leading land-use attorney in Santa Monica and his wife, Laurie Lieberman, the current president of the School Board.

Both contributed the maximum to Kuehl’s campaign. So did City Councilmember Gleam Davis.

Former Santa Monica mayor Judy Abdo donated about $350.

Kuehl is particularly proud of the wide-range of endorsements she has received. The list, she said, includes community leaders in pretty much every city in L.A. County’s 3rd District.

Santa Monica’s Mayor Pam O’Connor, Councilmembers Kevin McKeown and Gleam Davis have thrown their weight behind Kuehl.

Laura Chick and Rick Tuttle, both former L.A. City Controllers, have backed Kuehl. Since Kuehl’s would-be opponent, Greuel, was also once L.A.’s City Controller, Chick and Tuttle’s support is significant.

Kuehl also points to a list of Santa Monica’s former mayors and City Councilmembers, some of whom served with Shriver, who are backing her.

She’s also got the support of former County Supervisor Yvonne Burke and several State legislators, including Fran Pavley.

“There's really no one with the experience that I've had in the areas that the County oversees,” she said, highlighting her experience in the State legislature handling public health policy.


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