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James Is Fast Closing the Gap with His Rivals for Mayor

The more exposure the underdog Kevin James gains on the seemingly permanent Los Angeles mayoralty candidates forum circuit, the more the wind beneath his oratorical wings expands.

The more public appearances he makes, the more that unmistakable star quality identifies him.

If that is slightly amorphous, the evidence of it is growing.

If Mr.James’s momentum was barely detectable last summer, half a year later his formerly comfortable rivals are scootching about, seeing him as a threat in the March 5 primary.

The top two finishers in the field of four advance to the final round in May. Could Mr. James roar into second place?

A powerful thinker and muscular orator who has more firm information at hand than the other three combined, he is a 49-year-old attorney with a radio background who has two daunting strikes against him.

He is a Republican in a Democrat-drenched town.

He is the only non-elected official in that race that includes City Council members Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry, and City Controller Wendy Greuel, which means, necessarily, a significantly smaller public profile.

That appears to be changing.

It isn’t outrageous for Los Angeles to elect a Republican. Dick Riordan was won the mayor’s office twice in the ‘90s, although he emerged from quite different roots.

By traditional barometers, Mr. Garcetti and Ms. Greuel are the co-favorites, with Ms. Perry away back, and Mr. James? Oddsmakers are intrigued by him, are not quite sure how to evaluate him.

Seldom on the non-stop candidates forum circuit has the distinction between Mr. James and his opponents been as strong as it was last evening.

The brilliantly prepared and impressively delivering Mr. James rhetorically ground up Ms. Greuel and Ms. Perry.

Perhaps wisely, Mr. Garcetti skipped the forum downtown before an influential civil rights audience at the California Endowment, adjacent to Union Station, hosted by the Advancement Project, a gangs-focused group begun by civil rights attorney Connie Rice.

(To be continued)

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