Last week, all five candidates for City Council pledged not to take money from city unions, a vow many made once again at a League of Women Voters candidate forum this week, topping it off with a new addition.

All the candidates said at the Wednesday forum they will not accept contributions from developers, either.

The promises come as an anti-development sentiment has swept the campaign trail following the boom of downtown apartment buildings. Council members also have been criticized in recent years for accepting contributions from developers — especially from people tied to an affordable-housing company the city later sued for fraud.

"Candidates should not take any type of contributions from developers," said candidate Vartan Gharpetian, a business owner and city commissioner.

Glendale has a campaign contribution limit of $1,000 and all projects reviewed by the council include a "campaign disclosure" section so candidates can track if city contractors are giving them money.

Amid the money shunning, some candidates finger-wagged candidate Paula Devine for accepting union endorsements. Candidate Mike Mohill, a retired businessman, called her the "union candidate" and Gharpetian described city union endorsements as a form of accepting money since the bargaining groups can make independent expenditures.

Devine, a retired teacher and city commissioner, said she has been endorsed by the Glendale Fire Fighters Assn., but said she will reject any funds from that group and will not let the endorsement sway her decision-making if she is voted into office.

At the same time, though, she highlighted the importance of a candidate's independence from organized support.

"I think in order to make a clear, open-minded and fair decision, one must be completely free of ties from any commitments of committees or organizations or development entities," she said.

In both local and national elections, unions have historically played a large role in getting candidates elected. In recent years, however, some voters have soured on the once-prized union endorsement following the backlash against high public pensions and salaries.

"This is a national phenomenon," said Jaime Regalado, a political analyst and professor emeritus of political science at Cal State Los Angeles.

Regalado highlighted last year's mayoral election in Los Angeles, when endorsements from city unions, including the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers Local 18, which represents both Los Angeles and Glendale Departments of Water & Power, played a role in the demise of former candidate Wendy Greuel. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also received endorsements from organized labor, but more so from private groups.

Regalado said candidates seem to be backing away from union support so as not to be "tarred and feathered," although he described the union targeting as unfortunate.

Bob Stern, former president of the Center for Governmental Studies, a research organization, said in general, whenever large unions back a candidate, that person becomes a strong force in the campaign. If a candidate promises not to take any union money, but accepts endorsements, they should clearly tell organized labor representatives not to make independent expenditures for them, he said.

Stern added he wasn't surprised by Devine's statement that she would take an endorsement, but not be beholden to the union.

"That's what all candidates say. I'd be shocked if she said 'I would support everything they propose.' The voters would rebel against that," Stern said.

During the April 2013 election, the Glendale Fire Fighters Assn. and the Glendale Management Assn., spent thousands of dollars on mailers, door hangers and printed advertisements for candidates such as Council members Ara Najarian and Laura Freidman and City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian.

Candidate Rick Barnes, a Realtor, said at the forum that he would welcome union endorsements, but not their money. He added that the $1,000 contribution limit should diffuse fears about unfair influence since most shouldn't be swayed by $1,000.

Although monetary contributions are capped in Glendale, independent expenditures are not. Last year, the National Assn. of Realtors Fund spent more than $50,000 on Barnes' unsuccessful campaign.

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Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.

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