Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa endorsed Mike Feuer's bid for the job of city attorney today, calling the former assemblyman and city councilman "an innovative problem-solver."
It was Villaraigosa's first endorsement of the 2013 city election cycle.
"It's time to restore strong leadership and integrity to the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office," Villaraigosa said. "That's why I'm proud to endorse Mike Feuer. I've worked with Mike for years. He's an innovative problem- solver with the experience to tackle the tough challenges and keep our city safe."
Feuer is trying to unseat incumbent Carmen Trutanich in the March 5 primary election. Attorneys Greg Smith and Noel Weiss are also running for the seat.
For Villaraigosa, the endorsement marks the latest salvo in an ongoing feud with Trutanich. Villaraigosa expressed frustration with the city attorney last fall, after a legal opinion by Trutanich's office scuttled a deal to privatize management of the Los Angeles Zoo.
As part of a budget memo sent to city officials in October, Villaraigosa called for studying a plan to strip the City Attorney's Office of its responsibility for civil cases and instead appoint an attorney to advise the City Council and mayor on civil issues.
Trutanich blasted the mayor at the time for what he called "a distressing lack of imagination" on how to solve the city's problems and called the proposal "another misguided attempt to disrupt the necessary legal checks and balances provided by an independent city attorney."
Trutanich's campaign issued a statement today claiming Villaraigosa has slashed the City Attorney's Office budget from $117 million to about $75 million, a move that Trutanich says could have jeopardized public safety had it not been for his guidance of the office. The campaign also challenged Feuer's credentials as a lawyer.
"The only thing we've heard about Feuer's record as an attorney is frightening," Trutanich chief strategist Rick Taylor said. "Michael Feuer is a career politician. Mike Feuer would be lost in a courtroom. The courtroom is Trutanich's second home. The voters get it."
Feuer said he was honored to have the backing of the mayor, who joined other endorsers such as the Los Angeles Democratic Party, Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters and former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg, who served on Trutanich's transition team when he was elected city attorney in 2009.
"Mayor Villaraigosa is an extraordinary leader and public servant," Feuer said. "We've worked closely together for years, combating violence, expanding public transportation and much more. We both strongly believe in making L.A.'s streets and our kids' schools safe and in the importance of our neighborhoods. I couldn't be more proud."