Former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks to reporters after eating at a taco restaurant on May 8, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Image Credit: AFP

LOS ANGELES: Joe Biden’s first visit to Los Angeles as a presidential candidate featured two things this city produces in abundance _ campaign cash and tacos.

Biden spent most of his visit on Wednesday mingling with high-dollar donors at two private fundraisers. A third fundraising event is scheduled for Thursday morning.

Between visits to Los Angeles’ swankiest neighbourhoods, Biden and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti stopped for a late afternoon snack at King Taco #10 in the Pico-Union neighbourhood.

Fielding a crush of selfie requests, Biden, wearing a blue blazer and no tie, and Garcetti, in a dress shirt with a tie but no jacket, joined two diners for lunch, chatting about California-specific concerns such as homelessness.

Biden pledged to run a positive campaign, promising to “not speak ill of any of the Democratic candidates,” and predicting the large field of candidates will be “winnowed out pretty quickly.”

Garcetti has been courted by a number of presidential hopefuls as they swing through Los Angeles. He toured a water treatment plant with New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker last month and will appear with Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., at a labour event Thursday morning. So far, Garcetti said, he hasn’t chosen whom he’ll endorse.

“Like most folks, I’m looking and listening,” Garcetti said. “I’m not personally shopping; I’m standing up for the people of Los Angeles.”

Still, the two men’s affinity for each other was evident, with Biden slinging his arm over Garcetti’s shoulder as they ordered.

The fare at Biden’s midday fundraiser in Los Angeles’ Hancock Park section was a bit different _ ahi tuna ceviche and avocado, langoustine tail and caviar.

In a 20-minute speech to about 250 donors, Biden said he was running to “restore the backbone of this country” and said that while some criticise him for being “Old Joe,” he has the experience to unite the nation.

The event drew about a dozen protesters from the National Union of Health care Workers, which is in a dispute with Kaiser Permanente over resources for mental health care. The union members said they wanted Biden to raise their concerns with the event’s host, Dr. Cynthia Telles, who is a Kaiser board member.

Stacey Cohen, 50, a licensed clinical therapist who works at Kaiser’s Los Angeles Medical Centre, said she was “very surprised” that her union had not heard from Biden or his campaign about their concerns.

“He’s stated ... that he’s union man and that he supports unions. He’s talked about mental health parity and how important it is,” Cohen said. “And yet he’s refusing to meet with us who are the direct providers.”

John Nelson, a spokesman for Kaiser Permanente, said the demonstration was a “publicity stunt” and that the company has been in active bargaining with the union for nearly a year.

Biden did not interact with the protesters or address the demonstration in his remarks.

His second fundraiser of the day was to tap into Hollywood’s deep pockets. The event was to be held at the home of James Costos, a former HBO executive, and his husband, Michael Smith, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

—Los Angeles Times