LOS ANGELES -- Candidate Eric Garcetti stepped up his attacks over union spending in the Los Angeles mayor's race, challenging chief rival Wendy Greuel over her independence at a debate Monday.

In turn, Greuel's campaign launched a new Web page to rebuff criticisms over her relationship with the Department of the Water and Power union.

"Do you want a DWP union to buy this election by spending $1 million on Ms. Greuel's campaign?" Garcetti asked at a debate at California State University, Los Angeles. "Or do you want a mayor who is independent enough to make the right decisions and preserve our democracy?"

Garcetti's comments were made in his closing statements. Broadcast live on KABC (Channel 7), the debate included Councilman Garcetti, Controller Greuel, Councilwoman Jan Perry, tech executive Emanuel Pleitez and entertainment attorney Kevin James.

The attack comes days after Working Californians, a committee backed by the DWP's union, reported another round spending on behalf of Greuel. The group has spent more that $775,000, according to city records. The Los Angeles Police Protective League is also spending hundreds of thousands of dollars backing Greuel.

Independent expenditures aren't governed by campaign contribution limits and hold huge influence in elections since they can buy advertising, mailers and radio spots.


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Amid widespread voter distrust of the DWP union, whose employees routinely make more than other utilities in the region, Greuel's campaign hit back on Monday night, launching a new Web page to reframe the union issue.

Her Web page is titled "Lies about DWP ignore Wendy Greuel's record of independence." The page links to audits and votes taken by Greuel over DWP issues. (http://www.wendygreuel.org/facts/dwp/)

"Wendy has stood up to the DWP over and over again," according to the website. "She will be a mayor for all of Los Angeles -- and that means no one gets preferential treatment."

Greuel and Garcetti also tangled throughout Monday night's debate over her office's assertion that she has identified $160 million in "waste, fraud and abuse." Garcetti charges Greuel has inflated that number.

Greuel sought to turn around Garcetti's criticism. "Some people may call it fuzzy math," she said, adding "Let me tell you, they haven't attacked the problem," referencing what she characterizes as missed financial opportunities by the City Council.

Besides Greuel and Garcetti's sparring, there were few surprises at the debate, which comes about two weeks before the March 5 primary.

Candidate James repeatedly criticized City Hall, calling Perry, Greuel and Garcetti "foot soldiers" of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Pleitez also attacked the insider candidates and frequently returned to his goal of a pension buyout program to help the city's finances.

At one point, the candidates were asked what specifically they would do differently than Villaraigosa if elected. Perry pointed to the trips made by the current mayor, who is frequently criticized for his constant travel.

"I would travel a lot less," Perry said. "I would stay here and focus on relationships ... so that we have more inbound investment. We don't necessarily have to go all over the world to do that."


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