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TIPOFF PRIMARY MOVE PRESSURES LOCAL OFFICIALS TO PICK FAVORITES.

Byline: RICK ORLOV

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger promised that moving up the state's primary election to February would put California at the center of the presidential political world and, so far, he has proved to be correct.

Among Democrats, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York is planning a major Hollywood fundraiser, pushing to raise more than the $1.3million collected by rival Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois last month.

Former Sen. John Edwards, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson also have been frequent visitors looking to raise money for their campaigns.

The five, along with Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, also are scheduled to attend the California Democratic Party convention next month in San Diego -- an event normally shunned by national political types.

Republicans also have been turning up in droves -- from Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to a less-heralded visit by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

With all the attention on California, however, has come pressure for officials to declare their support for a candidate.

Most local officials are taking their cue from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and playing it cool when it comes to endorsements, preferring to wait to see what inducements might come in the future.

But all this interest from candidates comes at a time when Californians are apparently less interested in politics.

The most recent figures from the Secretary of State's Office show just 69percent of residents are registered to vote, nearly 1million fewer than two years ago.

With growing confidence that his candidates will win in the upcoming Los Angeles Unified School board elections, Villaraigosa is toning down some of his rhetoric as he looks to reform the district.

"I am looking to be a partner with the school district," Villaraigosa told business leaders last week at a United Way breakfast. "A lot of what you have heard about me wanting to take control of the school district came from the media. What I am interested in is working with the school board."

At the same time, the mayor is planning to spend $1million more for Tamar Galatzan and Richard Vladovic in their board races. And he said he will continue to appeal to the courts to push through legislation that would limit the board's role and give him direct authority of three clusters of schools.

Villaraigosa will have a chance to talk about his partnership plans this week with Superintendent David BrewerIII and school board President Marlene Canter when the three are in Washington, D.C., as part of a lobbying trip organized by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

The three will be singing from the same songbook this time as they seek more federal funds for education.

Last week marked the return of Richard Alarcon to the Los Angeles City Council -- just in time for him to watch the appointment of former rival Cindy Montanez to the city Planning Commission.

Montanez, a former assemblywoman from the San Fernando area, moved into Los Angeles and had sought the City Council seat being vacated by Alex Padilla after he was elected to the state Senate.

Montanez dropped out of the race when Alarcon -- who had originally endorsed her -- decided to run for the seat himself.

And in the category of "Don't let your hyperbole get in the way": Councilman Tom LaBonge was boisterously endorsing a St. Patrick's Day parade in downtown Los Angeles and boldly predicting its growth.

"This isn't the Hollywood Christmas Parade yet, but it will be some day," LaBonge said.

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce pulled its sponsorship of the Christmas parade last week.

rick.orlov(at)dailynews.com

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 26, 2007
Words:613
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