Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar

Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar is seeking reelection to a third term. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / November 23, 2011)

Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar kicked off his reelection campaign Tuesday with an elaborate downtown fundraiser, drawing an array of guests who said the councilman's troubles involving an ex-staffer had not shaken their support.

Huizar is seeking a third four-year term in the March 2015 election. The fundraiser took place less than a week after the councilman was named in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by his former deputy chief of staff, Francine Godoy. Huizar has called the allegations false but also said he had an extramarital affair with Godoy.

Some at Huizar's event, held at the nightclub Exchange Los Angeles, said it was too soon to draw conclusions about the lawsuit's allegations. Others said the Godoy matter was not connected to Huizar's job performance.

"Those are personal issues," said Carol Schatz, president and chief executive of the Central City Assn., a downtown business group, as she left the fundraiser.

Ruben Gonzalez, vice president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, said the focus of the campaign should be on Huizar's service to his constituents. The rest, said Gonzalez, is "a circus" that is drawing too much attention.

Gonzalez said he was not speaking as a representative of the chamber.

Godoy, 34, worked for Huizar for seven years, receiving an annual salary of more than $132,000 shortly before she left his office, according to personnel officials. In her lawsuit, she accused Huizar of waging a campaign of harassment and retaliation after she refused to provide "sexual favors." She also alleged that Huizar sabotaged her effort to run for public office after she spurned his advances.

Maria Elena Durazo, who heads the County Federation of Labor, said on her way out of the Huizar fundraiser that she is concerned about the allegations contained in the lawsuit. But she also said it is too soon to judge whether Huizar is guilty or not. 

“Jose Huizar has been very good to working people. He has really stood up for good jobs, and that’s what we as a labor movement are all about,” she said. “So until and unless something different happens around those allegations, we’re going to stand around Councilman Huizar.”

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david.zahniser@latimes.com