Would-Be L.A. Mayor Seeks Jewish Votes

In Race With Jews, Wendy Greuel Notes She Married Into Faith

Fine Family: Los Angeles Controller Wendy Greuel with her husband and young son.
courtesy of wendy greuel
Fine Family: Los Angeles Controller Wendy Greuel with her husband and young son.

By Rex Weiner

Published January 29, 2012, issue of February 03, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page

Wendy Greuel, who as Los Angeles city controller oversees the city’s finances, is the only one of four Democratic candidates in the 2013 race for mayor who isn’t Jewish, a detail that did not prevent Greuel from attending services at no fewer than four synagogues during last year’s High Holy Days.

The synagogue shuttling, as well as Greuel’s penchant for showing up at events like the Jewish Federation’s “Imagining Our Future” seminar in December, might be seen as simply good politics in a city where the 6% of the population that is Jewish delivers an outsized 16% to 18% of the vote.

But Greuel says it’s a genuine passion — and, after all, she married into the faith.

“My mom said I would marry a Jewish man,” the native Angeleno said during an afternoon interview with the Forward at a cafe in Larchmont Village, a midcity neighborhood within sight of the Hollywood sign.

She and Jewish attorney/filmmaker Dean Schramm have an 8-year-old son, Thomas, who is on the verge of entering Hebrew school at Temple Israel of Hollywood. “I just fell in love with the Jewish religion and culture,” said Greuel, who visited Israel in 2008 with a city delegation.

A kinetic 50-year-old with a signature no-fuss blond bob, Greuel was wearing a trim black suit and a mauve blouse covered by a multicolored shawl. She had just come from riding an open-topped Mustang in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade that chilly morning.

Describing herself as “determined and competitive,” Greuel believes that she is the one to lead the city through a historic time.

“Los Angeles is at a crossroads, and I want to give back to a city that has given me so much,” she said. “People want a mayor who is dedicated to improving the lives of its citizens. I believe it’s my time, my vision.”

A graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, and daughter of a Christian church founder, Greuel’s political career began in the 1980s, when she was a City Hall intern during Mayor Tom Bradley’s administration, and includes a Washington stint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She has been married for nearly 10 years to Schramm, who is active in the American Jewish Committee.

The couple met just as Greuel was launching her hard-fought 2002 campaign for city council, representing the 2nd District and up against former state assemblyman Tony Cardenas. Dating led to door-to-door canvassing, and ultimately Schramm’s fiancée won by 225 votes.

Other Democrats vying for City Hall’s top job in this overwhelmingly Democratic town are City Council President Eric Garcetti, Councilwoman Jan Perry and First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner, any of whom would become L.A.’s first Jewish mayor. Perry, who is African American, or Greuel would be the first woman to lead the city.

A recent poll of L.A. voters by an independent political consultant showed Greuel tied for front-runner with Garcetti (who also boasts Latino heritage) and undeclared front-runner County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky close on their heels. Political observers do not take the early poll too seriously, because the primary is not until March 5, 2013. Nevertheless, many view the contest as it stands today as a two-way race between Garcetti and Greuel.

A three-way race with Yaroslavsky, who boasts citywide name recognition and strong support in the Jewish community, which he developed over 30 years spent in public service, could lead to a bruising and an expensive runoff ballot. But Greuel insists she is not intimidated and sources say she has a $1 million war chest for the run.

“When I decided to run,” she said confidently, “I assumed that everyone was in and that I would become mayor.” She is the only office holder among the candidates who is choosing between her current job and a mayoral bid; both Garcetti and Perry are at the end of their term limits, while Greuel, after three stints on the city council, assumed the office of city controller in 2009.

It helps that DreamWorks SKG triumvirate Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen have endorsed her candidacy. Greuel worked for several years at DreamWorks.

Greuel has a knack for using public office to capture the spotlight, though often with unintended consequences. Wags tagged her “Queen of Potholes” for her promise while on the city council to repair every crumbling mile of the deteriorating roadway within her district. As L.A.’s top fiscal cop, she includes an enticing press release with every audit. Greuel’s revelation that a “Gold Card Desk” in a shadowy corner of the Department of Transportation had dismissed hundreds of city parking citations at the behest of city bigwigs made all the evening newscasts. Blowback included innuendo voiced from as high as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s office that perhaps a ticket or two may have been fixed by Greuel’s own office during her city council tenure.

In any case, the resulting kerfuffle highlighted the controller’s role of protecting the taxpayer’s pocketbook against City Hall waste and corruption.

“I ruffled a lot of feathers,” she admitted. “That’s my job.”

Contact Rex Weiner at feedback@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.