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Feuer on direct course to Capitol

Mike Feuer’s path to Sacramento was carved by his intellect and his
ambition. And if he stepped on a few toes along the way, so be it.

The Los Angeles councilman emerged from an expensive, and often nasty,
primary against West Hollywood Councilwoman Abbe Land, and is now all but
assured a seat in the Assembly come November.

Feuer’s campaign was criticized by Land’s campaign for a mailer that
questioned her ethics, and tried to connect her campaign contributions to
votes she had made on the council.

Land’s campaign denied the charges, and criticized Feuer for printing a
“microscopic” identification of her on the mailer.

But even some of Feuer’s supporters say the mailers are indicative of
Feuer’s political style. Bright and brash, Feuer carved out a successful
career in the world of public-interest law–he was named executive director
of Bet Tzedek Legal Services at the ripe age of 28–and served more than five
years on the Los Angeles City Council, where he earned a reputation as being
an expert on budgeting, social issues and political ethics.

“He’s a man on a mission; he knows what he wants to accomplish so get out of
the way,” said Feuer’s former city council seat mate and current Los Angeles
city controller, Laura Chick.

This fall, Feuer will be taking that mission to Sacramento. He is all but
certain to succeed Assemblyman Paul Koretz in representing the 42nd Assembly
District, a Democratic bastion in West Hollywood.

Feuer, 47, earned his bachelors and law degree at Harvard University and is
a professor at UCLA’s School of Public Affairs. He has practiced law for
Morrison and Foerster since his 2001 defeat against Los Angeles City
Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, breaking his string of political victories. Early
in his career, Feuer clerked for the California Supreme Court and then was
brought on board at Bet Tzedek in 1987.

Larry Levine, Feuer’s political consultant and father of Assemblyman Lloyd
Levine, said the district that stretches north to south from Sherman Oaks to
Beverly Hills is rock solid Democrat, and gets its distinctness from its
high plurality of Jewish voters and concentration of wealthy Democratic
contributors.

Feuer won the primary election handily with 52 percent to Land’s 32 percent,
due largely to a name-identification advantage, Levine said. The campaign
was one of the most expensive in the state, with both candidates spending
upwards of $850,000.

The district is home to many well-heeled Democratic donors, who ponied up
for both Land and Feuer during the campaign. Feuer inevitably will be asked
to use his demonstrated fund-raising ability to help his future Democratic
colleagues in Sacramento.

Feuer got key endorsements from the California Teacher’s Association,
firefighters, and police and sheriffs, in addition to endorsements from the
majority of the Los Angeles City Council, Levine said.

As for the No. 1 challenge facing the 42nd Assembly District? Feuer says
transportation, hands down.

Feuer says he hopes to extract money from the infrastructure-bond package to
fund a new subway system for his district and to sync up streetlights to
ease gridlock.

Feuer says he’s ready to spearhead a progressive agenda if elected. “I have
very strong views about public education, I would like to work with my
colleagues to reduce class size,” Feuer said. “I believe very strongly that
all children should have health care. And I want to be a leader in
Sacramento in combating global warming.”

Even in the insulated Capitol environment, Feuer says he wants to make open
dialogue a priority. As evidence of his commitment to accessibility, Feuer
put his cell-phone number on his Web site–and when contacted, he answered on
the second ring.

“We need to deliver to voters what they expect from us,” Feuer said.

Others have touted Feuer as a consensus builder. Although Delgadillo ran
against Feuer in 2001, the current city attorney has nothing but praise for
his former election foe. Delgadillo said Feuer “demonstrated over the years
that he can deliver on the art of compromise.”

But Feuer says he is motivated by strong, core political beliefs. “I don’t
think it’s inconsistent to have a strong sense of core values and then reach
compromise,” Feuer said. He pointed to his history of reaching across the
political aisle during his years on city council, where he worked with
then-Republican Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan.

During his tenure as councilman of the 5th district, Feuer represented
250,000 constituents–most of who are nested in Assembly District 42. He won
the council seat against Barbara Yaroslavsky, wife of former councilman and
Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

Feuer sat on 17 committees and chaired the powerful Budget and Finance
Committee, where he balanced multibillion-dollar budgets. He worked to
provide jobs for disadvantaged youth, create public parks, halt gun
violence, limit development, conserve the environment, build affordable
housing and improve public safety.

On city council, Feuer was a leader on business-tax reform, gay and lesbian
rights, government-ethics reform and issues relevant to seniors, children,
and those with disabilities.

Feuer said he’s been on the record supporting marriage equality for over a
decade.

Paul Koretz, who served with Feuer’s primary opponent, Land, on the West
Hollywood City Council but endorsed Feuer in the primary, said he clashed
with Land when she voted against labor, particularly during closed sessions.
“I was very pro labor and I didn’t have a lot of support on the council,” he
said.

Koretz says he endorsed Feuer because of their history of collaborating on
and combating gun violence, an issue that is near to Koretz’s heart. But the
assemblyman did criticize Feuer’s use of negative mailing tactics during the
primary.

“I think Abbe is sharp too. But I think Mike is an absolutely brilliant guy.
I think that made a big difference,” Koretz said of Feuer’s victory.

Chick, Feuer’s city-council colleague, said she has heard rumors that Feuer
thinks he is “smarter than everyone else.” But the city controller said she
doesn’t agree. “I think there’s been a few times when he’s taken positions
and was outspoken and caused people grief.

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