THE ELECTIONS held in Los Angeles last Tuesday were technically nonpartisan. There was no "R" or "D" next to a candidate's name on the ballots, and there were no primaries or nominating conventions and no cutesy graphics of triumphant elephants or ferocious donkeys on the lawn signs.
The partisanship was there, but behind the scenes in the endorsements, the slate mailers, the prerecorded campaign phone calls. Although both parties poured in money, the final results made it clear: Los Angeles is now more than ever a one-party town.
For all its myriad cultures and ethnicities, Los Angeles has the political diversity of Leningrad in 1956. The City of Angels is the City of Liberals, where the halcyon dream of social-engineering lives on. Public employee unions call the shots, identity politics reigns, and the governing philosophy is tax-and-overspend.
When Angelenos cast their ballots in June's mayoral runoff, they'll choose between last week's top two vote-getters. On the left, it's James Hahn, and on the far left, Antonio Villaraigosa, both endorsed by the progressive but indecisive Los Angeles Times.
It will be an apoplectic moment for the city's liberals forced to decide between Villaraigosa's charm and Hahn's family legacy and a Kevorkian moment for L.A.'s few remaining conservatives.
If it doesn't seem like much of a choice, it's because there isn't much of a difference.
Villaraigosa, the former state Assembly speaker, has impeccable left-wing credentials: endorsements from Sen. Barbara Boxer, the Sierra Club and the National Organization for Women. He's a former employee of the United Teachers Los Angeles, the sworn enemy of local education reform and former head of the local unit of the American Civil Liberties Union.
In other words, he's a perfect fit for Los Angeles, whose voters didn't seem to mind much that he asked President Clinton to pardon convicted cocaine trafficker Carols Vignali. And while Gray Davis' name might be synonymous with rolling blackouts elsewhere in the state, the governor still has enough political capital in energy-rich Los Angeles to remain a campaign asset. He was prominently on hand for Villaraigosa's victory party Tuesday night.
Hahn might not have Villaraigosa's institutional support, but he's cut from the same ideological cloth. The son of legendary county supervisor Kenny Hahn, he's made a name for himself as city attorney a job he has transformed to that of chief litigator for spurious politically correct causes.
That the two most left-leaning candidates would rise to the top of the six-candidate mayoral heap is testament to the left's lock on local politics. It also speaks to the vast power of organized labor Hahn and Villaraigosa both had union support.
Election Day 2001 was a romp for L.A. labor. The UTLA's candidate won an outright majority in two out of three board races in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and its pick in the third intransigent incumbent Valerie Fields leads opponent Marlene Canter going into the runoff.
The American Federation of Teachers, which represents district professors, got its candidate, Joey Hill, into the runoff for one of two open seats in the Los Angeles Community College District. It endorsed nobody in the other race, which Michael Waxman who has no educational experience but is the son of Westside Democratic congressman Henry Waxman won big.
Democrats won big everywhere.
The big loser, of course, was outgoing Republican Mayor Richard Riordan, whose efforts to bring the city back from the precipice weren't enough to get any of the candidates he backed elected. The mayor's handpicked choice for his successor, Steve Soboroff, fell flat. So did Riordan's choices for city controller and school board. Only Rocky Delgadillo, Riordan's pick for city attorney, held his own, earning a spot in a runoff against City Councilman Mike Feuer.
As for the City Council, the earnestly liberal outfit whose members think that denouncing the Boy Scouts and banning ammunition sales will heal the city's woes, little has changed. Radical member Jackie Goldberg may have left for the state Legislature, but radical state legislator Tom Hayden was Tuesday's top candidate in a crowded field for the open 5th District seat.
Come July, it will be business as usual for the council. Only then it will have a new mayor and sympathetic leadership throughout City Hall backing its agenda.
Los Angeles has long been an experiment in liberal city planning. That experiment will now continue unimpeded.
Welcome to Los Liberales.