Sanders endorses Clinton

Democrat Bernie Sanders endorsed former rival Hillary Clinton for president in a belated show of party unity on Tuesday, saying it was critical that Democrats come together to defeat Republican Donald Trump in the Nov. 8 election.

“She will be the Democratic nominee for president, and I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next president of the United States,” Sanders told a raucous crowd that included plenty of vocal Sanders supporters.

Five weeks after Clinton clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, the U.S. senator from Vermont ended his upstart campaign and joined her at a rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to put their bitter primary battle behind them.

“I have come here to make it as clear as possible as to why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton and why she must become our next president,” Sanders said.

Sanders' endorsement brought the most prominent holdout in the party's liberal wing into Clinton's camp less than two weeks before the opening of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, where Clinton is expected to become the party's nominee.

Clinton hopes the joint appearance will help her win over Sanders supporters, some of whom carried Sanders signs into the rally and frequently drowned out her supporters. In recent Reuters/Ipsos polling, only about 40 percent of Sanders backers said they would back Clinton, and the crowd at Tuesday's rally made it clear she still had work to do.

“I am absolutely certain I will not vote for Hillary Clinton,” said Gale Bailey, a Sanders supporter and an unemployed graphic designer from Rochester, New Hampshire, who attended the rally in a Sanders T-shirt.

“She's a crook, and I'm not going to vote for a crook,” Bailey said, adding that she would write inSanders' name on the November ballot.

The appearance in Portsmouth concluded weeks of negotiations between the two camps asSanders pressed for concessions from Clinton on his liberal policy agenda.

It came after Clinton last week adopted elements of Sanders' plans for free in-state college tuition and expanded affordable healthcare coverage. Sanders also successfully pushed to include an array of liberal policy positions in the Democratic platform, which a committee approved on Saturday.

Sanders did not win all of his policy fights, most notably failing to win support for blocking a vote in Congress on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

But he told reporters at the rally in Portsmouth that “our job now is to see that platform implemented by a Democratic Senate, a Democratic House and a Hillary Clinton president – and I am going to do everything I can to make that happen.”

Top Democrats, including President Barack Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a favorite of the party's liberal wing, have already announced their support for Clinton, leaving Sanders at risk of being left behind in the Democratic battle against Trump.

“I think all signs point to the fact that we're going to have a very united party going into Philadelphia,” Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said on CNN earlier on Tuesday, “and when you compare it to the Republicans, we're going to be miles ahead of them.”

Trump has struggled to unify the Republican Party after alienating many establishment figures with his stances on immigration, Muslims and women. A number of prominent Republicans are skipping the party's convention in Cleveland next week.

In another sign of the Democrats' growing unity, two prominent liberal groups that had backedSanders, the Communications Workers of America labor union and the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC, announced their support for Clinton on Monday.

The congressional group is led by two of Sanders' biggest backers in Congress: Raul Grijalva of Arizona, who already had endorsed Clinton, and Keith Ellison of Minnesota.

New Hampshire is where Sanders first served notice of the strength of his campaign by beating Clinton handily in the primary.

In 2008, Clinton and Obama held their first joint rally in the state after his victory in that brutal primary race. To make sure everyone got the point, it took place in the town of Unity.

Bernie Sanders endorses Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump blasts Bernie for selling out

Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton for president and said he would work with her to keep Donald Trump from being elected.

“I have come here to make it as clear as possible as to why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton …” Sanders said Tuesday at a rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, before being interrupted by a surge of cheers, then concluding “and why she must become our next president.”

Sanders, an Independent senator from Vermont and the first Jewish candidate to win major party nominating contests, attacked Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, while lauding Clinton.

“While Donald Trump is busy insulting Mexicans, Muslims, women, African-Americans and veterans, Hillary Clinton understands that our diversity is one of our greatest strengths,” he said.

Trump, meantime, blasted Sanders on Twitter for betraying his followers.

“Bernie Sanders, who has lost most of his leverage, has totally sold out to Crooked Hillary Clinton,” Trump said.

The Sanders campaign replied, referring to Trump’s offering to debate Sanders last month, then retreating from the pledge.

“Big talk from the same guy who was too afraid to debate Bernie in California,” the Sanders tweet said.

Sanders had mounted an unexpectedly strong campaign against Clinton, the former secretary of state and the establishment favorite. He won overwhelmingly in New Hampshire, one of the early nominating states.

The campaign at times turned bitter, but Clinton, accepting Sanders’ endorsement at the rally, contrasted it with the Republican primaries, where Trump often belittled his opponents.

“I was proud of the campaign we ran, it was a campaign about issues, not insults,” she said.

Sanders in his endorsement speech said Clinton and the party had moved toward the left because of his campaign. The media declared Clinton the winner in early June, and she won the needed number of delegates shortly after for the nomination, but Sanders withheld his endorsement until he extracted concessions from her on the party platform.

“I am happy to tell you that at the Democratic Platform Committee which ended Sunday night in Orlando, there was a significant coming-together between the two campaigns and we produced, by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party,” he said at the New Hampshire rally.

Clinton in her speech acknowledged as much, embracing themes Sanders hammered home, including increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour and reforming campaign finance. She allowed a self-deprecating reference to Sanders’ oft-repeated claim during the primaries that the average donation to his campaign was $27, contrasted with the huge donations Clinton solicited from the corporate world.

“We accept $27 donations, too, you know,” she said, urging voters to head to her website and earning a hearty laugh from Sanders.

Not mentioned were the candidates’ foreign policy differences, including Clinton’s rejection through the Platform Committee of Sanders’ bid to introduce language that was critical of Israel’s presence in the West Bank as an occupation.

Jewish Members of the NYC Council Endorse Hillary for President

In a joint statement issued on Tuesday, twelve members of the New York City Council’s 14-member Jewish Caucus announced their endorsement of Hillary Clinton ahead of the April 19 New York presidential primary.

The members endorsing Clinton’s presidential campaign include David Greenfield, Stephen Levin, Alan Maisel and Mark Treyger from Brooklyn; Barry Grodenchick, Daniel Garodnick, Karen Koslowitz and Rory Lancman from Queens; Ben Kallos, Helen Rosenthal, and Mark Levine from Manhattan, and Andrew Cohen from The Bronx.

Excluding Brooklyn Councilmembers Brad Lander and Chaim Deutsch, the Jewish members of the City Council pointed to Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, in which she helped build the sanctions regime on Iran and stood up for Israel’s right to defend itself.

“Hillary Clinton has delivered time and time again for New York, for the Jewish Community, and for Israel,” Councilman Mark Levine, Chairman of the Jewish Caucus, said in a statement. “Whether winning funds to rebuild New York after 9/11 or exposing anti-Semitism in the Middle East and around the world, Hillary Clinton has been there for us.”

Without mentioning Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, Levine said, “This is not a time for learning on the job–especially when it comes to the challenges facing Israel.”

Councilman David Greenfield, representing one of the largest Orthodox Jewish districts in the United States, said that Clinton is the “strongest pro-Israel Democratic candidate for President, and has a proven record of working with New York’s Jewish community since her days as our U.S. Senator.”

Greenfield blasted Sanders over his recent comments on Israel, saying he has “made it clear that he doesn’t value the pro-Israel community.”

Councilman Rory Lancman also pointed to Sanders skipping the annual AIPAC policy conference, his delegitimizing of Israel’s right to defend its citizens from terrorism, and embracing Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour, whom Lancman called “America’s most virulently anti-Israel and anti-Semitic advocates.”

“Hillary is the clear choice for so many reasons, and her longstanding and informed support for Israel and the Jewish people is one of them,” he added.

Spike Lee endorses Bernie Sanders ahead of South Carolina primary

Spike Lee recorded a radio ad endorsing Bernie Sanders for president.

The ad by the pioneering African-American film director was released in South Carolina, where Hillary Rodham Clinton is believed to have a huge advantage over the Vermont Independent senator among black voters ahead of Saturday’s Democratic primary.

Lee calls Sanders his “brother” and says, “When Bernie gets in the White House, he will do the right thing!” — an allusion to his breakout 1989 film about racial tensions in New York, “Do The Right Thing.”

He goes on to note Sanders’ involvement in the civil rights movement in the early 1960s – a sore point for the campaign since Rep. John Lewis, a Democrat from neighboring Georgia and a civil rights hero who is backing Clinton, has said she did far more in that era.

Jewish groups scored Lee in 1990 for his depiction of two rapacious Jewish show business agents in his movie “Mo’ Better Blues.” Lee has since included Jewish characters in a number of other films, including “Clockers” in 1995 and “25th Hour” in 2002, that were praised for their nuance.

Sanders is the first Jewish candidate to win a primary in a presidential election, easily taking New Hampshire earlier this month.

MoveOn gives Bernie Sanders key endorsement

The liberal activist movement endorsed Bernie Sanders for president, handing the Vermont senator important grassroots support in the early primary states.

Nearly 79 percent of 340,665 members casting votes selected Sanders, an Independent, over the other candidates for the Democratic nod, Hillary Rodham Clinton, a former secretary of state who is the front-runner in national polls, and Martin O’Malley, a former Maryland governor.

The endorsement could boost Sanders, 74, ahead of the first primary states, where the Jewish lawmaker is competitive with Clinton, despite trailing her in national polls.

“MoveOn will mobilize in support of Sanders with initial focus on turning out 43,000 Iowa and 30,000 New Hampshire MoveOn members — early states where polling shows a neck-and-neck race just weeks out,” the organization said Tuesday in a statement.

Defeating Clinton in the early primaries could convert Sanders, a Social Democrat, from a long shot into a serious contender.

MoveOn was established in the late 1990s to push back against Republican attacks on President Bill Clinton for his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. It became a leading opponent on the left of the Iraq War in the early 2000s, and its first endorsee as president was Barack Obama in 2008.

Ilya Sheyman, the group’s executive director, analyzed comments made by members in the online voting and came up with five reasons Sanders was the overwhelming winner. Among them was his opposition in real time to the Iraq War. Clinton, then a senator from New York, supported the war, although she now says she regrets her vote.

Sheyman also cited Sanders’ support of the recent sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal between Iran and six major powers.

“Bernie Sanders has been a strong, consistent voice for the principle that war should always be a last resort,” Sheyman said. “He had the foresight to vote against authorizing the war in Iraq in 2002, was a strong supporter of the nuclear deal to prevent war with Iran, and has been a voice of reason against escalation in Syria and other conflicts around the world.”

Hagel gets key Jewish endorsements for secretary of defense

Chuck Hagel added three major Jewish Democrats to his list of endorsers, clearing his way to likely confirmation as secretary of defense.

Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) each said they were satisfied Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, would advance the U.S.-Israel security relationship and would make a priority of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“I know some will question whether Sen. Hagel’s assurances are merely attempts to quiet critics as he seeks confirmation to this critical post,” Schumer said in a statement Tuesday, a day after he conferred with Hagel. “But I don’t think so. Sen. Hagel realizes the situation in the Middle East has changed, with Israel in a dramatically more endangered position than it was even five years ago. His views are genuine, and reflect this new reality.”

Lawmakers generally take their lead on sensitive issues from colleagues who are affiliated to the interest group in question, and the endorsement of Jewish senators has been seen as critical to him getting the job.

Also endorsing Hagel was Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. Hagel had drawn fire for past criticisms of Israeli policy, skepticism about the efficacy of unilateral Iran sanctions, wariness of the repercussions of a military strike on Iran, and willingness to engage with Iran and some terrorist groups, while also maintaining degrees of isolation.

In conversations with Schumer, Boxer and Wasserman Schultz, Hagel also apologized for having said the “Jewish lobby” is “intimidating” in a 2006 interview.

Don’t take my word for it: What do others say about President Obama’s record?

True friendship is measured in actions and deeds, in promises made and promises kept. It is judged by what we do and how we act when the chips are down and the stakes are high.

I support President Obama and have spoken often of his strong leadership in support of the U.S.-Israel relationship, in preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons and on a host of domestic issues throughout this campaign.  So has the President himself.

However, as the chair of the Democratic Party, you don't have to take my word for it. And you don't have to be convinced by the President's own, honest words.  Instead, let's listen to two of our nation's top independent judges of President Obama and former Governor Romney on issues of concern to the American Jewish community.

When it comes to Jewish voters, there is no one more objective than Mayor Ed Koch or Professor Alan Dershowitz.  They are both unabashed, outspoken pro-Israel stalwarts and have, at times, even disagreed with President Obama.  And on social issues, they have both long been equally outspoken arbiters of justice, driven by a sense of Jewish values.

Faced with a choice between Governor Romney and President Obama, both Mayor Koch and Professor Dershowitz endorsed President Obama.

Take it from Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard Law professor who wrote The Case for Israel and The Case for Peace.  He points out in his latest op-ed in the Jerusalem Post that the President “has strongly supported Israel’s security by helping to construct the Iron Dome anti-rocket system,” which has already saved countless Israeli lives.

In the same piece, Professor Dershowitz continues, “with regards to Iran, which poses the most immediate threat to the security of the United States and its allies, most especially Israel, the policy of the Obama administration is crystal clear: It has taken containment off the table and kept the military option on the table.” And in an interview  just over a week ago, Dershowitz told the Times of Israel that President Obama “has been clearer and firmer than Romney on the Iran issue.”

In explaining his decision to endorse President Obama in the Jerusalem Post, Professor Dershowitz also expresses his concern for “our future and the future of our children” since “the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court over the next 30 years may be decided during the next four years.”  And that “the case for Barack Obama includes his record in appointing moderates rather than right-wing ideologues to the judiciary, and most especially to the Supreme Court.”

Or take it from former New York Mayor Ed Koch, a champion of U.S.-Israel relations for more than four decades. In a video message he recorded just last week, Mayor Koch  explains that “I'm proud to stand with President Obama because he's listened to the Jewish community and proven himself a true friend of Israel.”

Mayor Koch says in his endorsement video  that “like so many in the Jewish community, I was moved by the President's speech at the United Nations in support of Israel, the strongest statement of its kind ever made by a United States president.”  The Mayor says, “I'm confident President Obama will continue his unambiguous commitment to the Jewish state in his second term.” Further, in a recent op-ed in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel he writes that President Obama “was committed to preventing Iran from developing a nuclear bomb – not simply to a policy of containment – made clear to me his absolute commitment to the security and defense of the State of Israel.”

Concerning domestic issues, the former New York mayor reminds us in his video last week that President Obama is the “clear, best choice on domestic policy” and has noted that “on every single domestic issue, the Republicans are dead wrong and the Democrats are dead right.” And that  “those aren't just American values, they're Jewish values too.”

You can even take it from Israel's leaders, who do not endorse American officials but have made clear that President Obama has strengthened our bilateral partnership like never before.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted in a speech last year to AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, that “our security cooperation is unprecedented” and again on September 21 that President Obama deserves  a “badge of honor” for his defense of Israel at the United Nations.  And Defense Minister Ehud Barak told CNN this summer, “honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing in regard to our security more than anything that I can remember in the past.”

Streisand urges Jews to reelect Obama [VIDEO]

Barbra Streisand, in a National Jewish Democratic Council video, urged the reelection of President Obama, saying Mitt Romney “does not share our values.”

Streisand, who had already endorsed Obama, released the video Friday through the NJDC. She emphasized women's rights in her message, saying Obama “has taken our country forward by expanding women's rights and fighting for social and economic justice,” whereas “Gov. Romney would take us backwards and is as extreme as it gets when it comes to a woman's right to choose.”

In addition to noting the candidates' sharp differences on abortion rights, Streisand also cited differences in policies on health care and tax policy, praising Obama's approach and saying that Romney's proposed policies would hurt the poor and middle class.

She referred to advances for gays under Obama and said the president had implemented “the strictest sanctions ever” on Iran to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

“Mitt Romney does not share our values, I know Barack Obama does,” Streisand concluded.

Three top Jewish women activists endorse Obama

Three past and current leaders of Jewish women’s advocacy groups endorsed President Obama, citing their concerns about women’s rights.

Nancy Ratzan, the immediate past president of the National Council of Jewish Women; Barbara Dobkin, the founding chairwoman of the Jewish Women’s Archive, the chairwoman of the American Jewish World Service board of trustees and a major donor to a number of causes; and Millie Sernovitz, the chairwoman of Jewish Family and Community Services of South Florida and a past president of Jewish Women International, signed an Op-Ed in the Jewish Journal of Broward County titled “Stand With Us.”

The newspaper is located in Florida, which is seen as a swing state. Both campaigns are focused heavily on its substantial Jewish population.

Speaking of the Republican presidential candidates, the Op-Ed claimed: “They all support ending access to reproductive choice, including basic contraception. Indeed, their likely nominee, Mitt Romney has called Roe v. Wade ‘one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history,’ he supports the ‘personhood amendment’ that would outlaw all abortion, and he says he will repeal health care reform on his first day in office.”

Romney has said he would stop government funding for Planned Parenthood, but has never said he would stop access to contraception.

He has pledged to initiate a rollback of some aspects of the health care reform passed in 2010, but has suggested that he will keep some of its provisions and replace others with models he believes will be more efficient.

Romney does favor the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that guarantees a woman’s access to abortion as a matter of privacy, but he also has said that he favors legal abortions in cases of rape, incest or when the woman’s life is in danger.

Regarding Obama, the Op-Ed stated that, “With respect to Israel, our security assistance has increased every year, we’ve quelled attempts to isolate Israel, and Iran is under greater pressure than ever before. With respect to domestic achievements, his historic health care reform has created access to better and more affordable health care for millions of Americans.”

Obama’s increases in security assistance to Israel are partly the result of a memorandum of understanding framed by the previous Bush administration.

The Op-Ed noted Obama’s mandated inclusion of contraceptive care coverage in health care plans whatever the religious inclinations of the employer.

Ratzan is a donor to Democratic candidates and acts as a surrogate for the Obama campaign in Florida. Dobkin has been a major giver to Democratic candidates.

Koch endorses Obama

Ed Koch says he’s now on the “Obama reelection express.”

The former New York mayor told supporters in an e-mail Monday that he is backing the president in the wake of his pro-Israel speech last week at the United Nations, among other factors.

Koch credited his role in the Democrats’ loss of this month’s special congressional election in a heavily Jewish Democtatic stronghold in New York City. Koch had urged voters to back the Republicans to send a message to President Obama, whom he accused of distancing himself from Israel.

“I believe the recent vote in the 9th Congressional District in New York affected in a positive way the policy of the U.S. on the Mideast,” he said, noting the international community’s endorsement last week of renewed talks without preconditions, a key Israeli demand. “The President should be praised for intervening with the Egyptian army to save the Israeli diplomatic personnel from physical assault and providing the Israeli military with bunker buster bombs, advanced military technology and providing military intelligence cooperation far exceeding his predecessors.’

“I’m now on board the Obama Reelection Express,” Koch said.

Questions Emerge Over School Board Candidate

A leading contender in next week’s L.A. school board race is at odds with USC and UCLA over his academic standing, the latest in a series of uncomfortable disclosures for Christopher Arellano.

Arellano, 33, the candidate endorsed by the powerful Los Angeles teachers union, did not complete the master’s programs for which he claims to have degrees, according to the University of Southern California. Further, UCLA declined Thursday to confirm his bachelor’s degree, saying only that Arellano’s “records are on hold.”

In an interview, Arellano said he was unaware of a dispute about his record at UCLA, but he acknowledged he did not complete a required four units of classes for the Urban Planning component of the dual master’s he has claimed at USC. He also said he fully completed the other of the two master’s degrees, in social work.

Questions about Arellano’s academic status came to light even as the well-financed political newcomer is trying to lay to rest another issue: a criminal past. Thursday’s La Opinion published details about Arellano convictions for theft — once at age 20 and again three years later.

Arellano insists that he has been open about his troubles.

“I am aware that my opponents have raised questions regarding my past,” he said in a statement provided Wednesday night to the House of Representatives of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA). “And yes, I did make some mistakes. I am not proud of these mistakes, but they have served to make me a better, stronger person. I am running for school board because I want to ensure that none of our children end up in the hopeless place that I did and make the same mistakes that I made.”

Born Robert Christopher Bruce, Arellano said in an interview with The Journal that his mother was Mexican and his father Anglo and an alcoholic. He recounted dropping out of school and leaving Phoenix, Ariz. at 14, finally arriving in Los Angeles at 18, where he slept in a car.

“I have been like one of our kids who gets lost in the system,” he said.

He began to get interested in theater and also hung out with Echo Park hipsters, who knew him as Bianco. He eventually changed his name legally to Christopher Bianco Arellano. Later, as an activist, he was involved in gay rights issues — he is openly gay — and the local Democratic party.

Arellano said he became politically awakened when he discovered Chicano studies at UCLA: “I redirected my frustration and anger to doing things and good work.”

Following Arellano’s appearance at the UTLA body Wednesday night, union delegates overwhelmingly voted to stand by their endorsement. At the meeting delegates were not, apparently, aware of questions regarding Arellano’s academic status.

Arellano’s character issues both cloud and enliven a political contest far off the radar of most Angelenos. He is one of four candidates running in District 2 of the Los Angeles Unified School District to replace Jose Huizar, who was elected to the Los Angeles City Council. Huizar now holds the seat formerly occupied by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Villaraigosa’s shadow looms large over the race. After some initial hesitation, Mayor Villaraigosa has embraced a mayoral takeover of the L.A. school district. Both Villaraigosa and Huizar, a close ally, have endorsed former Huizar aide Monica Garcia. For her part, Garcia, 38, says she “can’t really comment” on Villaraigosa’s takeover plan until she sees it in writing. Some political observers have interpreted this response as indirect support for Villaraigosa’s efforts.

The other candidates are not so coy in taking a different view. The most vocal opponent of the mayor’s bid for authority over the schools has been Arellano, and his position helped win the UTLA endorsement — UTLA has made resisting the mayoral takeover its No. 1 priority. Arellano also works fulltime for UTLA as a teacher rep. UTLA has consistently been the major donor in school-board races, and its endorsed candidates hold the majority on the seven-member Board of Education.

Essentially, the contest has shaped up as a proxy battle between the teachers union (supporting Arellano) and those in town who support putting the mayor in charge of L.A.’s schools (supporting Garcia). Arellano’s corollary assets include a background as a community activist and, briefly, as a City Council aide.

But then came news of Arellano’s other background.

In his campaign bio and in an initial interview, Arellano said he has two master’s. USC spokesman James Grant said the school’s position is that no degree has been conferred. When told of USC’s contention, Arellano said he has four units to complete on the second master’s in the dual master’s program. Regarding the first master’s: “I have completed all requirements for the social-work degree. I graduated and walked at graduation ceremonies in May of 2005.”

UCLA spokesman Phil Hampton would say only that Arellano’s academic records “are on hold and as a matter of policy we can’t confirm whether he received a degree.” He declined to say why the records are on hold.

“I have no idea what the problem is,” Arellano said. “I graduated from UCLA in 1998. I don’t know what the holdup is — honestly. I do have student loans. They are current. With this campaign, people are letting me know what is happening in my life.”

Arellano’s problems could open the door for other candidates, especially if he loses the UTLA endorsement. A fallback union choice could be 31-year-old Enrique Gasca, a former Legislative aide who operates a public-relations and consulting firm and who has attracted some union support; he has presented himself as the only parent in the race. A dark-horse wildcard is Ana Teresa Fernandez, a 23-year-old UCLA graduate who works as a staffer for the California Charter Schools Association. She was schooled in activism by her mother, teacher Lupe Fernandez, who has lobbied ceaselessly for the completion of the half-finished Belmont Learning Complex. Fernandez scored endorsements from both the Los Angeles Times and the L.A. Weekly. A fifth candidate, Maria Lou Calanche, appears on the ballot but has suspended her campaign.

All of the other candidates’ professed degrees check out. Garcia has a bachelor’s from UC Berkeley and a master’s from USC. Gasca has a bachelor’s from Georgetown.

Arellano’s candidacy could have fallen apart the evening of March 1, when the teachers union House of Representatives convened for a regular meeting and then entered closed session to discuss whether Arellano would keep the endorsement. The union already has committed to donating $200,000 to Arellano’s campaign — which could swamp the opposition. And more help is in the works, including a phone-bank operation, precinct walking and campaign mailers. The House dealt with the matter for about 30 minutes, said UTLA spokesman Steve Blazac. At one point, Arellano was summoned in to explain himself.

“It was an emotional appeal,” Blazac said, “to teachers from someone who said, ‘I had a troubled youth and stumbled a few times, but I turned my life around and let’s move forward.'”

Speaking with The Journal, Arellano discounted tales told by former associates, who question his transformation and apparently alerted the media: “Obviously, they’re not my friends. I’ve told you I made mistakes. I definitely screwed up in early life and I’m sorry about that.”

In his written statement to union members, Arellano said: “Over the course of this campaign, I have always been upfront about the fact that I had a troubled childhood.”

But Arellano never volunteered specifics, let alone implied that his troubles included criminal convictions or financial irresponsibility. In 1992, he appeared before a municipal court for stealing merchandise and for battery at Pioneer Market in Boyle Heights. He pleaded guilty to the theft charge in a plea agreement. The court fined him $415 and placed him on unsupervised probation for 24 months.

In 1995, Los Angeles police arrested him for stealing more than $400, which qualifies as grand theft. After initially pleading not guilty, he eventually entered a no-contest plea, according to court records. A judge fined him $125 and sentenced him to three days in prison, 30 days of forced labor with Caltrans, and mandatory psychiatric treatment. He subsequently missed multiple court appearances. Court records indicate two bench warrants were issued for his arrest for failure to appear in court, spanning from 1995 to March 1999. The 1995 case continued until September 2004.

The 1992 case did not officially close until a hearing today (Thursday) in Los Angeles Superior Court, according to court records. For more than 10 years — until today — there has been an outstanding warrant for his arrest due to repeated failures to appear in court.

Arellano’s docket also includes a separate 1998 judgment for a loan debt of $3,610.97. Arellano said he couldn’t recall the case, but that “any kind of debt that needed to be paid I paid. My credit score I’m happy with.”

The question for voters is simply: Who is Christopher Arellano? Former friends, some claiming to be victims of alleged scams, say they consider him a charming con artist and just can’t believe that he has reformed. They point out that some of his problems have persisted into recent times, such as the now-closed court cases.

But Arellano earned good marks in his year working as a field deputy for City Councilman Eric Garcetti, who has endorsed Arellano.

“Chris, I think, embodies somebody who has not only transformed his life, but also overcome a lot of hardship to be a success story, which is what we want to see a lot of youths in Los Angeles achieve,” Garcetti said. “He was a dropout and overcame a broken home to work on behalf of social justice. He was able to put himself through college and graduate school. He was an extremely welcome, bright, articulate presence in the office.”

Additional reporting by Robert David Jaffee.

Not for Hahn After All

Six prominent members of the Jewish community have sent a letter of protest to Mayor Jim Hahn, claiming Hahn’s re-election campaign used their names in endorsement advertisements without their permission.

The ad, titled “Our community leaders agree! Re-elect Mayor Jim Hahn,” ran in both the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles and The Jewish News. The Jewish Journal ad appears in this week’s paper. The letter of protest addresses Hahn directly, stating that, “In your first campaign for mayor, some of us did support you.[But] that was three years ago, and there was no follow-up call to re-solicit support for your current campaign.”

In response, Hahn campaign advisor Kam Kuwata provided the Journal with six undated signed statements by the same individuals giving the “Jim Hahn for Mayor 2005” campaign permission to use their names in endorsement lists of “Jewish community leaders for Hahn.”

The six who signed the letter are Rabbi Steven Weil, Dr. Irving Lebovics, Rabbi Avraham M. Weiner, Aaron B. Litenansky, and Walter Feinblum.

Kuwata said he could not say precisely when the forms were signed, only that it was after Hahn was first elected mayor in 2001. The form is on letterhead that specifies 2005 as the campaign in question. But Kuwata acknowledged some ambiguity on the issue, noting that the letters were obtained by Joe Klein, a Hahn supporter who has since died. Kuwata said he did not know when the letters were obtained. “In all candor, it’s a very difficult thing to trace,” said Kuwata.

“Some people date [endorsement permissions], some people do not,” Kuwata said. “It’s on the letterhead of ‘Hahn for Mayor 2005’ and I presume that everybody who signs that looks at what they’re signing.”

Kuwata said the endorsements could date back three years, which would be after Hahn was first elected, but before other candidates entered the campaign against Hahn. These challengers include two former state Assembly speakers-Bob Hertzberg, who is Jewish, and Antonio Villaraigosa, who has a history of drawing strong support among Jewish liberals. Three years ago would also pre-date the surfacing of corruption allegations against the Hahn administration.

The individuals who wrote the letter of protest implied that so much time had passed that Hahn’s campaign should have gone to the trouble of a follow-up communication to ensure their support had continued.

Kuwata disagreed: “If I give you permission to do X, you don’t ask me, ‘Do I still have your permission? Do I still have your permission?’ We don’t continually [do that].” He said that if they wanted their names removed, they could have called and requested it at any time.

Of the six, only Rabbi Avraham Weiner’s permission form included the caveat that he be contacted prior to the Hahn campaign’s use of his name.

The letter to Hahn ends with a request to remove the signers’ names from future advertisements. Kuwata confirmed that the Hahn campaign would be “happy” to comply.


The Arnold Factor


With the candidates for Los Angeles mayor increasingly invoking the name of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on the campaign trail, a buzz is

breaking out over whether Schwarzenegger will endorse any of the challengers to Mayor James Hahn. Such a move could hurt more than help him, but political considerations alone may not dictate this unusual governor’s decision.

There are big reasons for Schwarzenegger to stay out. First, even embattled incumbents like Hahn hold an advantage, and Schwarzenegger needs to work with Hahn if the mayor is re-elected. Beyond that, endorsements rarely sway voters.

If Schwarzenegger’s endorsement backfired and his guy lost, the governor would look weak. If his candidate won, how, realistically, could the new mayor help Sacramento?

Schwarzenegger’s mum on the topic. Nevertheless, he is already a key figure in the race, earning frequent mentions — generally quite negative — from the mostly pro-labor union candidates for mayor.

At a recent debate sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters, for example, state Sen. Richard Alarcon (D-Van Nuys) accused Hahn of cutting a deal with Schwarzenegger that failed to quickly recover for Los Angeles a pot of local taxpayer funds that were diverted to the state budget.

Although he defended himself, Hahn failed to note a crucial fact: It was Alarcon and his colleagues in Sacramento, not Hahn or Schwarzenegger, who for years voted to divert that tax money out of Los Angeles and into the ever-growing state spending budget.

Bill Carrick, campaign consultant to Hahn, noted of Alarcon’s claim: “These legislators have been stealing the city’s damn money, and then they get up on the stage and blame Jim?”

Further, such controversies are likely to erupt as Schwarzenegger’s quasi-presence in the race looms larger and charges fly. Consider that although the five leading candidates for mayor are all Democrats, one of them — former California Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg — is a trusted adviser to the governor, while another — Hahn — works closely with Schwarzenegger on fiscal issues.

Even more intriguing is the fact that three mayoral candidates — Alarcon, Hertzberg and City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa (another former Assembly speaker) — played roles in the massive deficit Schwarzenegger inherited, although Villaraigosa left Sacramento in 2000, before the crisis. Add these elements together, and you’ve got a recipe for bizarre alliances, not to mention efforts to blast the governor and shift some blame for Los Angeles’ troubles his way.

The only candidate with little to gain from Arnold-obsessing seems to be City Councilman Bernard Parks. One of only two candidates not directly involved in running up the $35 billion California budget deficit under Gov. Gray Davis (the other is Hahn), Parks sticks to skewering those who spend local funds in ways he finds troubling — Hahn and the L.A. City Council.

Hertzberg may be the only candidate who can clearly gain by linking himself in a positive way to Schwarzenegger. Largely unknown outside the San Fernando Valley, he’s a moderate, pro-business type who might appeal to Schwarzenegger Democrats — if they knew who Hertzberg was. But Hertzberg suffers from “low name I.D.,” as does Alarcon.

And that’s why Schwarzenegger might be tempted to endorse his friend and adviser Hertzberg, despite the potential pitfalls. In politics, the antidote to low name I.D. is spending large sums to introduce the candidate to voters via TV and other advertising. Hertzberg, who has already raised more than $2 million, could become a household name in Los Angeles if Schwarzenegger kicked in some major cash.

Hertzberg’s campaign consultant, John Shallman, noted, “We have not asked Gov. Schwarzenegger to endorse Bob, and Bob probably would never ask and would leave that to the governor.”

Kevin Spillane, a Republican consultant, said, “Endorsements are always overrated, and very few endorsements swing any voters one way or another — it’s the financial support they generate.”

In other words, if Arnold gives a lot to Hertzberg, others will give money, too.

In fact, money is so key to this race that Walter Moore, a successful Republican attorney also running for mayor, lent himself $100,000 — in hopes of proving to the media and civic groups, which have barred him from key mayoral debates — that he is a genuine candidate for mayor.

Rich Lichtenstein, a Democratic consultant not representing any candidate, said he’d bet that “if Arnold sees movement in Bob’s [poll] numbers, Arnold would put a chunk of change in to put him over the top. Bob Hertzberg is the most viable candidate for mayor, in terms of who the Schwarzenegger administration thinks is the right person. While it’s true you do not want to alienate whoever might be the future mayor of L.A., Arnold is an extremely loyal guy, and Bob Hertzberg has cultivated a relationship with him.”

Clearly, most political consultants would advise the governor against getting into the L.A. mayoral race. Lichtenstein called it “sticking his nose in,” and, perhaps understandably, Hahn’s consultant, Carrick, said, “I don’t think it would be a very good idea.”

But as we’ve seen, the governor has a strange way of conducting politics. He has a lot to lose if he backs his friend Hertzberg, and he doesn’t have all that much to win. In other words, don’t be surprised if he follows conventional wisdom. Just don’t be surprised if he defies it.

Syndicated columnist Jill Stewart writes a monthly column for The Journal. She can be reached at

Justice, Justice

Is there a “Jewish stake” in the district attorney race between two-term incumbent Gil Garcetti and head Deputy District Attorney Steve Cooley? Maybe it comes to this: How far out of step is this community going to be?

Steve Cooley has won the endorsement of every local newspaper, plus three former district attorneys, including the esteemed John Van De Camp, and the major police organizations. He is far ahead in the recent polls. He’s got the money to combat Garcetti’s negative campaign ads that paint Cooley, the former San Fernando Valley chief deputy and a nationally recognized master of welfare fraud prosecution, as soft on crime and, presumably worse from the Jewish community’s point of view, a Republican.

Despite this momentum, as Jewish Journal staff writer David Evanier reported, Garcetti maintains strong support from Jewish community leadership. They know him, feel comfortable with him and endorse his expanded vision of the office, including his outreach policies to women and minorities and his emphasis on crime prevention and truancy. Yet, with the Nov. 7 election staring at us, here’s the obvious: unless there is a reversal of the laws of nature, Steve Cooley is going to win, because, as almost every other segment of L.A. but our community has noted, the time for change has come.

I met with the 53-year-old Cooley last stormy Sunday in his second-story back office off Riverside Drive in Burbank, where he was working quietly with his wife, Jana, a court reporter, and a supporter, Deputy District Attorney Mike Grosbard. Cooley, wearing chinos and a Valencia Country Club polo shirt, calls himself a “real prosecutor,” not a politician; he doesn’t flatter, play cute with ethnicity, or go for the glad hand. Compared with Garcetti’s silver-haired glamour, Cooley is a dull coin.

“The office is in trouble,” says the 27-year veteran prosecutor and former police officer. “We’ve got to restore the integrity to the office and the sense of mission,” Cooley says.

Garcetti squeaked to victory four years ago against the underfunded John Lynch after the O.J. Simpson disaster. Since then, the issues have mounted: overzealous three-strikes enforcement, Ramparts abuses, helping the grandchild of a donor. That Cooley is, as expected, a straight arrow may be part of his appeal.”There’s something desperately wrong with the department,” Marsh Goldstein, a retired, 35-year-veteran of the DA’s office, tells me. The district attorney’s office, he adds, is about one-third Jewish.

“The district attorney has to set an example. Garcetti can be charming. But I don’t want him administering the office that I love,” Goldstein says.

The prosecutor is the linchpin of the criminal system, standing between the police and the judiciary. The office must file fair cases and win using fair evidence. That’s why the Rampart crises is the district attorney’s problem, not only that of the LAPD. The district attorney is obligated to turn over evidence to the defense that the testifying officer has prior conduct or credibility problems. Garcetti’s office has been accused of withholding information, something he blames on lack of a central database. But the fact that Garcetti disbanded the special “roll-out” unit created by Van DeKamp to investigate officer abuses has caused widespread concern.

“We call it ‘clientism,'” says Mike Grosbard, an 13-year veteran of the department, whose first legal post was in the federal office in charge of Nazi-hunting. “The DA thinks he has to maintain good relationships with the police department.” Garcetti has been called the “flypaper DA.” Perhaps unfairly, everything wrong with L.A. justice sticks to him. But the public is demanding accountability, and it’s not wrong.Take three strikes. It’s a disastrous law, made worse by Garcetti’s policies that have led to life sentences for minor offenses.

“It’s not a matter of being hard or soft on crime,” says Cooley. “The DA’s policy lacks proportionality. The policy lacks an ethical core.”

During our talk, Cooley takes out a 1964 newspaper profile of Evelle Younger, titled “A New Kind of DA.” Younger is the standard for Cooley. He gives him his highest compliment, calling him “real.” During the Younger era, the L.A. district attorney’s office was the finest in the nation, where the best people were assigned to a case and were left free to use their judgment. This, says Cooley, is what “real prosecutors do.”There’s a time for everything. Remember, Evelle Younger (who was a judge before being elected district attorney and then went on to attorney general) served only two terms.

Marlene Adler Marks will discuss “The Family Journey: The Book of Genesis and the Story of Our Lives” at the Skirball Cultural Center on Saturdays beginning Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. Her e-mail address is