Wendy Greuel seeks to rally women voters

Los Angeles mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel holds a Web chat with women leaders to rally support in her race against Eric Garcetti. (YouTube, Google+ / April 30, 2013)

As the Los Angeles mayor’s race heads into the final three-week stretch, City Controller Wendy Greuel is stepping up her efforts to engage female voters — seeking a turnout advantage against her general election rival, City Councilman Eric Garcetti.

Greuel’s strategists expect women to make up 55% of the electorate in her May 21 runoff with Garcetti. Over the past few weeks, the campaign has organized more than 100 all-women phone-banking sessions at the homes of supporters to engage volunteers.  On Tuesday night, Greuel held a Google chat with some of her leading female supporters — highlighting her potential to make history as the city’s first female mayor.

Greuel touted her endorsements from top elected officials, including Democratic congressional leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) The chat participants, including Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, L.A. Unified President Monica Garcia, longtime civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and operatives from the Feminist Majority and the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project, urged Los Angeles viewers to join their canvassing efforts on Greuel’s behalf.

Greuel focused on her work as a young aide to Mayor Tom Bradley, on after-school programs and healthcare, as well as her work on the City Council to reduce the backlog of rape DNA-testing kits at the LAPD. She noted that she was elected to the City Council in her first race by a margin of 225 votes.

“Get excited,” Greuel said before giving participants instructions on how to download the program that would allow them to phone bank from home.

“Give it as much time as you can in the next 21 days.”

“We can win this race, but it is tight,” she said. “It is a statistical dead heat and those are the races that I know we can win. Because not only when women vote, women win; but women work harder — no disrespect to the men — but we know how to do a lot all at one time and multi-task. So let’s get going.” 

It is not yet clear how successful Greuel’s efforts to win over female voters have been. Before the March primary, where the vote splintered among five candidates, a USC Price/Los Angeles Times poll showed Greuel and Garcetti evenly matched among women. In a USC Price/Los Angeles Times poll last month, female voters favored Garcetti, who was leading Greuel at that time among likely voters 50% to 40%.

Garcetti has received the endorsement of the California chapter of the National Organization for Women and he often notes the number of top women in leadership positions on his staff and the fact that he has appointed more women than men to city commissions. But EMILY's List, which raises money for female candidates who favor abortion rights across the country, is seeking to help Greuel turn out women voters through an independent committee. So far they have dedicated $400,000 to the effort.

Greuel’s field consultant Sue Burnside, who joined her after the primary, said she believes the campaign is doing a better job in the general election race getting women voters involved. About 700 women have joined Greuel’s Women for Wendy committee, and Burnside said the team is doing more to educate voters about Greuel’s work on education, safety and small business issues.

The campaign is planning a series of Mother’s Day activities (Greuel’s 9-year-old son Thomas is frequently at her side during campaign events), as well as a beauty shop tour of South Los Angeles. The campaign hopes to hold as many as 2,000 women-focused house parties where volunteers make calls to other women voters to talk about Greuel’s record. 

In the primary, “They were not engaged from that woman-to-woman perspective ,” Burnside said in an interview this week. “I don’t think they really communicated and engaged women on that conversational level.”

Burnside said volunteers will also emphasize that there may be no women on the council after the elections this year: “That’s a motivating factor,” she said.

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Twitter: @MaeveReston

maeve.reston@latimes.com