Seizing a rare opening, unions pour millions into the state senator’s L.A. County supervisorial race against Councilman Bernard C. Parks. 

Labor unions, whose money already has made this year’s race for Los Angeles County supervisor the most expensive ever, plan to spend millions more over the next eight weeks to elect their favored candidate, Mark Ridley-Thomas.

The spending, more than $4.5 million so far, or roughly $65 for each vote Ridley-Thomas won in the first round of the race against Bernard C. Parks in June, reflects how much labor leaders believe they have at stake in the election, which is for the first open seat on the Board of Supervisors in 12 years. Unions have enjoyed strong influence on Los Angeles city government but have had less clout at the county level.

 The effort to change that comes amid a scandal that has forced out the leaders of two of the union locals that have been most active in the campaign, both affiliates of the giant Service Employees International Union. In both cases, the local presidents stepped aside after reports in The Times about possible misuse of union funds.

Labor officials say that the problems in the SEIU will not change their plans for continued spending on Ridley-Thomas’ behalf using an independent expenditure committee. Such committees can sidestep contribution limits as long as they do not coordinate activities with the candidate.

“Basically, nothing that you’ve read in the past few weeks has changed who Bernard Parks is,” said Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the 800,000-member Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. “He is still the man who opposed so many things important to working people, who opposed rent control, who opposed a living wage, who allowed Wal-Mart in.”

 Although Parks supports Wal-Mart in his district, he was not on the council when the chain got permission to open there.

At the same time, union officials privately concede that they are attempting to recalibrate their political strategy to account for diminished confidence in their own leadership.

Full Story: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/politics/cal/la-me-labor14-2008sep14,0,4542758.story