Sheila Kuehl and Bobby Shriver

L.A. County supervisorial candidates Sheila Kuehl and Bobby Shriver during a recent debate. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times / March 20, 2014)

Political interests hoping to gain favor with the two remaining candidates for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors are starting to line up their support in a high-stakes contest for the Westside district held by Zev Yaroslavsky.

Last week, former legislator Sheila Kuehl won the backing of a key labor panel, the first step in getting an official endorsement by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, the county's most powerful labor voice. Kuehl is already backed by an array of union, environmental and women's groups, and much of the local Democratic Party machine.

Former Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver, meanwhile, was endorsed by John Duran, a Democrat who placed third in the June primary. Shriver, also a Democrat, has the backing of real estate groups, the Los Angeles and Hollywood business chambers and is expected to benefit from an independent campaign — financed by business interests — that will place ads and send mailers to support his run.

At stake is a probable swing vote on the nonpartisan county board, which oversees a $26-billion budget and 100,000 employees. Steve Afriat, a prominent lobbyist and campaign consultant who is not connected to either campaign, thinks spending by the candidates and interest groups backing them will be close.

In November, when the voter turnout is likely to be much larger than the 17% seen in the primary, victory probably will come down to two factors, Afriat said — which candidate do voters see as articulate and dynamic, and who runs a better campaign.

"They both have very good consultants," he said. "That's why I think it's going to be close."

Since the June 3 primary, Kuehl has netted endorsements from Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin, City Atty. Mike Feuer and San Fernando Valley congressman Brad Sherman. Last week, a key County Federation of Labor panel voted to back Kuehl. The wider membership must still give its blessing but it typically follows the panel's recommendation, analysts say.

Kuehl, who served 14 years in the Assembly and state Senate, says she is "very happy and proud" of her labor support. "They know I grew up in a working-class family and that as a legislator I always fought for families and workers,'' she said.

Shriver also picked up new support, holding a news conference to announce that Duran, a West Hollywood City Councilman and former mayor who received 16% of the vote, is backing him. An independent group being financed by business interests, meanwhile, recently filed papers indicating it would raise money to send out its own advertising supporting Shriver.

Shriver, who has spent much of the last two decades raising money for the Special Olympics and medicines for AIDS-stricken Africans, said he hopes that voters will not consider him as solely a "business" candidate.

"People who want investment and less red tape — those people are more comfortable with me than they are with Sheila," he said. "There's not a conflict in wanting to see job investment and to also have strong progressive values."

Analysts warned that the importance of endorsements can be overplayed. Voters in the 3rd District, which runs from Hollywood to the Westside to much of the Valley, tend to follow issues closely and don't pay much attention to the backing candidates receive, Afriat said.

But an endorsement from Yaroslavsky or retiring Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) could prove significant, he said. Both have so far stayed out of the race.

"This is a district dominated by liberal Jewish voters,'' he said. "I would give us 10 endorsements for Henry Waxman's endorsement."

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