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Xavier Hermosillo is the President of, a national Crisis Communications, Marketing, and Management firm he founded 23 years ago. He is a former political chief of staff, an award-winning reporter and photographer, and a former radio talk show host and TV commentator in Los Angeles. He has co-founded two publicly-traded companies where he served as a member of the Board of Directors and as the Senior Vice President of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications. He has also served as a Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission on police officer discipline cases, and holds degrees in Administration of Justice and Business and Communications. He can be reached at

America’s second largest city is about to get into a very nasty campaign for Mayor and we may not be better off for it.

We are all about to be challenged professionally by the upcoming Los Angeles Mayoral run-off election and the experience will test the mettle of all reporters and editors in all segments of the media.

Politics is a game that operates buy its own rules and sometimes the rules are made up as the campaign moves along. Most people have an inkling of this, but for the most part, ignorance seems to be bliss for a nation that regularly produces voter turnouts below 40 and 50 per cent.

We apparently haven’t learned our lesson from the 68 per cent turnout in the Iraqi elections where the precious right to vote meant people had to deal with bombings, shootings and the like. They say we get the kind of government we deserve and too often, that is so true.

The media has never really done a great job of covering local and regional elections in Southern California. Usually we get the same coverage of debates, charges and counter charges, Election Day rhetoric, and election night party-watching at some local hotel or theater.

Rarely do we see the real down and dirty ugliness that goes on behind the scenes, and sometimes right in the face of voters, because apparently the media decision-makers develop a new moral sense of responsibility or ethics. We’re probably going to see a lot in this campaign that the media won’t want to talk about and that would be a major disservice to the public.

For example, do you ever remember seeing a story in print or on television news about elections in fairly well known cities like Compton (birthplace of rap music) or Carson (home to the pro soccer team, the Galaxy) where many of the political mailers made blatantly false and extremely graphic sexually-oriented allegations? Of course not! Although the media regularly reports stories involving graphic nudity and violence, it won’t do it in an election involving race or ethnicity.

And that is exactly what is going to happen in the L.A. Mayor’s race.

There already is extensive discussion and debate behind the scenes about whether affluent white voters will abandon the idea of supporting Antonio Villaraigosa because he is a Mexican-American. After all, the current concerns being raised about illegal immigration come predominantly from white and conservative voters. There’s also great speculation whether the African-American community will, in the view of some, pick the “lesser of evils” and support Jimmy Hahn over a Latino because of the on-going conflicts involving the two poorest ethnic minorities in L.A. and the perception by some that Latinos (especially illegal ones) take away jobs from the community both ethnic groups share.

Furthermore, we will probably see Hahn again introduce the “sleaze factor” and attack Villaraigosa

in a way similar to 2001 in which most experts believe race was a factor. It’s obviously acceptable for both candidates to attack each other’s political and legislative records, but many in the media refuse to concede that Hahn has more of an ability to attack an ethnic Villaraigosa than the Councilman has to attack a white Mayor.

People remember and still cringe at the ad of four years ago when Hahn, who was then the city attorney, rightly criticized Villaraigosa's record as an Assemblyman but then launched the most controversial attack of the campaign. Hahn highlighted Villaraigosa's efforts, in a television ad, to seek consideration of a presidential pardon for convicted crack cocaine dealer Carlos Vignali. The ad featured images of a crack pipe and grainy pictures of Villaraigosa, leading to charges of racism, which Hahn has denied. Denial of truth is nothing new for the Mayor. Hahn has repeatedly denied there is corruption in his administration, although the investigations have led to the resignations of a handful of deputy mayors and commissioners, and have involved a public relations contract that has resulted in the federal indictment of one of the PR executives.

Furthermore, a Hahn supporter has been fined by state elections authorities for his role in funding the Hahn attack piece on Villaraigosa. Hahn, who has reprised the Vignali pardon issue in a television ad in this campaign, won’t commit to staying out of the political ad gutter in the runoff. He has already said he would “bury” his runoff opponent and has refused to disavow future negative ads, saying, "I can't predict what will happen," he said.

Villaraigosa, who has acknowledged that he did not do enough to counter Hahn's assault four years ago, will level his own attacks based on the ongoing state and federal probes of City Hall. The Councilman has given strong indications he is girding for a fight and will respond accordingly.

But Hahn, having received the bad news on Election Day that 75% of the voters supported someone other than him, is under “fight or flight” pressure to win. And desperate people have been known to do desperate things. When any candidate does that, it should be reported by the media, whether it involves race, sex, blatant lies, and ugly truths, whatever.

Hahn is desperate to restore his standing among the San Fernando Valley and city-wide white voters and regain the African-American voters who backed him in 2001 but deserted him after he refused to support another term for Police Chief Bernie Parks. Both groups have since grown disenchanted with Hahn’s administration.

A majority of voters overall view Hahn unfavorably, according to the L.A. Times, while about seven in 10 have a favorable impression of Villaraigosa . This could blunt the impact of any attacks the mayor plans to unleash on Villaraigosa between now and the runoff election on May 17th.

The exit polls from the primary already show the public will be less receptive to Hahn attacks, both because they know and like Villaraigosa a lot better than they did four years ago and they know and dislike Hahn a lot more than they did four years ago.

Hahn has been given a pass by many media because of his “nice factor” and they don’t want to kick a guy when he’s down. But there is too much at stake in this election. Traffic, pollution, public safety, a severely deteriorating infrastructure, are all issues that hinge on who is elected and whether L.A. grows in a positive way or becomes a major slum. It’s THAT serious.

As a Republican, it’s always a tough call when you have to pick between two Democrats. But this year the choice will be easier for many of my ilk because we have seen the character of both men and know their track records. Given the choice between two liberals as the ONLY choice, Republicans will almost always go with the better character and the candidate who offers some hope.

The lack of enthusiasm for Hahn and growing Latino political power will also probably make a big difference in the election. In addition, the Harbor Area, which the media believes is Hahn’s strongest base, is full of holes and open to Villaraigosa. Some folks in San Pedro like to say that Hahn doesn’t LIVE in San Pedro, he only SLEEPS there.

That dig comes from the fact that Hahn has never been involved in the port community and only moved there because it is safer than the predominantly black area where he previously lived.

Such is the nature of politics in Los Angeles. The rest of the country will be watching to see what happens in El Lay on May 17th. Will the campaign help our image as an important U.S. city or make us look even loonier?