Sunday, March 6, 2005

It’s fair to describe Republican Walter Moore as a long-shot candidate in tomorrow’s election for Los Angeles mayor.

Last week’s Los Angeles Times poll showed a three-way tie among well-known Democrats — Mayor James K. Hahn, former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg and Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa. With no candidate expected to draw more than 50 percent of the vote, the final outcome is likely to be decided by a runoff between the top two finishers.

But if Mr. Moore does emerge as one of the top vote-getters in the nonpartisan race, politicos say, it will be thanks to one issue: illegal immigration. A political newcomer on leave from his law practice, Mr. Moore, 45, is the only candidate who wants the city to become involved in deporting illegal aliens.

“As mayor, I don’t have any direct control over the border,” Mr. Moore said. “But I can stop Los Angeles from being a sanctuary city. I can turn the police loose on this problem. The city employs 50,000 people; I can make sure all of them are legal.”

His stand has earned him the cold shoulder from most of the city’s political establishment, but it has won him a passionate following among closed-border advocates. His supporters are spreading the “Moore is better” message through a grass-roots patchwork of bloggers, radio talk-show hosts and doorbell ringers.

“If Walter Moore does well, it’s because of illegal immigration, absolutely,” said Mike Spence of the Los Angeles County Republican Party. “Because there’s no other way to explain it.”

As mayor, Mr. Moore has said he would fight for the repeal of Special Rule 40, which prevents Los Angeles police from asking suspects about their immigration status. On one of his Web site ads, he says, “My name is Walter Moore and I’m running for mayor, and you know what? I don’t speak Spanish, and I don’t intend to learn.”

A graduate of Princeton University and Georgetown Law School, Mr. Moore has better credentials than the average fringe candidate. Even so, he has had to fight to win invitations to candidate debates, and local news coverage of his campaign has been thin, even after a mention by CNN commentator Lou Dobbs.

Mr. Moore didn’t register even 1 percent in Tuesday’s Los Angeles Times poll, but then again, he said his name wasn’t included among the choices.

No matter.

“I’m convinced I’ve got huge support out there. My supporters are bumping into each other as they’re passing out fliers.”

Mr. Moore entered the race in August 2003 after becoming outraged about the proposed $9 billion Los Angeles International Airport expansion. An animal lover, he also has come out in favor of no-kill shelters and requiring landlords to allow pets, positions that have put him on the wrong side of some Republicans.

“That makes it seem like he’s anti-private property and anti-business,” Mr. Spence said.

The question is: Do enough people know about him to make a difference in tomorrow’s balloting?

“Thanks to the Internet, [talk-show hosts] Doug McIntyre and Terry Anderson, and people fair enough to include me in debates, we’ve gotten the word out,” he said.

“It won’t be pretty, but we’ll still win.”

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