It's being called "Counting to Eight."

That's the magic number of votes needed to elect a president of the Los Angeles City Council. The vote takes place on Tuesday, which is the first meeting of the newly-constituted council.

And it looks like it's going to be a nail-biter. As of late last week, current City Council President Ruth Galanter and Councilman Alex Padilla each reportedly had seven votes and both were lobbying furiously to get someone to switch and become that eighth vote. (With former Council President John Ferraro's seat vacant, the council now has 14 members.)

In a rapidly-changing race, Padilla's candidacy, announced last Tuesday, was a last-minute surprise. The other two declared candidates for the post, Cindy Miscikowski and Nick Pacheco, found they couldn't muster the five or more votes necessary to mount a serious challenge and threw their support to Padilla. That sets up what local political consultant Jorge Flores called a contest between the old guard represented by Galanter and the new guard, represented by Padilla.

So why did the campaigns of Miscikowski and Pacheco fizzle?

In Pacheco's case, the writing appeared on the wall when L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley alleged that a non-profit organization tied to Pacheco provided a phone bank for controversial calls allegedly made by the mayoral campaign of Rep. Xavier Becerra. Those calls involved a woman impersonating County Supervisor Gloria Molina attacking rival candidate Antonio Villaraigosa.

The reason for Miscikowski's campaign failing to gain much traction is less clear. "It may simply be a matter that she didn't hustle enough for the votes," said a council aide.

City Commission Names Floated

Even before L.A. Mayor James Hahn formally takes the oath of office today, names of potential city commission candidates already are being bandied about.

The most prominent name that keeps cropping up for the Airport Commission is attorney Ted Stein, who served as an airport commissioner under Mayor Richard Riordan. That Stein is even considered in the running is somewhat of a surprise, given the bitter campaign he waged against Hahn for City Attorney back in 1997 and subsequent allegations of ties to controversial Clinton administration figure Webster Hubbell.

Another possible airport commissioner: Dan Garcia, a former city planning official who served on the airport commission until his unexpected departure two years ago as controversy swirled around public relations contracts for the airport expansion project.

Race for Ferraro's Seat

The race to replace former Councilman John Ferraro took shape last week as eight people formally took out papers three days before the filing deadline. Leading the pack: Former state Senate President-pro-tempore David Roberti, L.A. Community College Board member Beth Garfield (who is also married to former state Assemblyman Wally Knox) and longtime City Hall staffer Tom LaBonge, who served as an aide to both Ferraro and former Mayor Richard Riordan.

While Roberti has the highest name recognition by far, that doesn't give him a lock on the seat. In fact, some are betting on LaBonge, noting his close ties to City Hall and that he ran for that council office before, back in 1991.

The biggest obstacle for all the candidates in the highly unusual September 11 election, though, could be apathy. Voter turnout is predicted to be in the low teens with possibly fewer than 10,000 votes cast.

Staff Reporter Howard Fine can be contacted by phone at (323) 549-5225, ext. 227 or by e-mail at hfine@labusinessjournal.com.

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