Months of rancorous campaigning in the Los Angeles mayoral race drew to a close Monday, with candidates scattering across the city in a final burst of handshakes and personal appeals to voters who will head to the polls today.
Mayor James K. Hahn and his four lead challengers toned down their harsh rhetoric in the campaign's final hours. Instead, they stuck largely to promoting their candidacies as they fanned out to Panorama City, Hollywood, San Pedro and other spots across the city's vast, traffic-clogged terrain.
The major candidates, all Democrats, also spent much of the day trying to stir enthusiasm among the campaign workers who will goad supporters to show up and vote before polls close tonight. The election, Hahn told several dozen union volunteers downtown, "is about hitting those phones, calling everybody you know, hitting the pavement, knocking on those doors."
As Hahn campaigned for a second term, his main challengers -- state Sen. Richard Alarcon of Sun Valley, former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg and City Councilmen Bernard C. Parks and Antonio Villaraigosa -- pressed their case for shifting direction at City Hall.
"It's time for a change," Villaraigosa told crowds over and over on a 13-stop daylong journey from Boyle Heights to the Crenshaw district by way of Sherman Oaks and the Westside.
Hertzberg, a Sherman Oaks lawyer, campaigned on Hahn's home turf in San Pedro before heading back to more familiar political territory in the San Fernando Valley. Parks dashed from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where he touted efforts to lure a professional football team to Los Angeles, to the Valley, where he spent much of his day passing out campaign fliers. And Alarcon, stumping in the pre-dawn darkness, greeted sanitation workers and Metrolink commuters in his Valley Senate district.
Polls open this morning at 7 and close tonight at 8. If no one wins more than 50% of the vote in the mayoral election, the top two candidates will meet in a May 17 runoff.
Also on the ballot today is City Controller Laura Chick, who is running for reelection against challenger Mervin Evans, a management consultant. City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo is also seeking a second term, but he has no opponent.
Seven members of the City Council are seeking reelection, three of them with no opposition. On the Westside, an open seat in the 11th District has drawn a spirited contest between candidates Flora Gil Krisiloff, Bill Rosendahl and Angela Reddock.
A large share of the electorate has already cast ballots by mail. By Monday afternoon, the city clerk's office had received just over 100,000 ballots, said City Clerk Frank Martinez. The city mailed out 198,000 absentee ballots. Voters must return them to a polling place or to the clerk's office no later than 8 p.m. Postmarks do not count.
Overall, the clerk's office expects roughly a third of the city's 1.5 million registered voters to cast ballots. If any contest is close, the final tally may not be known for weeks, said Arleen P. Taylor, chief of the city clerk's election division. "It's a pretty painstaking process," Taylor said.
In the mayor's race, the campaigns bombarded voters Monday with mail, home visits and phone calls, many of them automated. And despite the less combative tone of the candidates in their public appearances, the tenor of their television advertising remained brutal.
After months of struggling to capture the public's attention, the candidates also managed to grab top spots on the local news as they raced across the city promoting themselves.
Hahn wrapped up his campaign day with an appearance at Hollywood's Sunset Room, where roughly 150 supporters gathered beneath a mirrored disco ball and chanted "Four More Years!"
"From Boyle Heights to Westchester, from Winnetka to downtown, this is a town that works," Hahn shouted in remarks timed to put him live on the evening news. "And works for everyone."
Earlier, Hahn campaigned in San Pedro, the Valley and the Mid-City area, starting at the Omelette & Waffle Shop near his San Pedro home. With his sister, Councilwoman Janice Hahn, and several dozen supporters, Hahn ate waffles with bananas and whipped cream for breakfast.
"I'm hoping for No. 1 on Tuesday," he said.
Hahn repeatedly returned to the central themes of his campaign, touting a drop in crime on his watch and his hiring of William J. Bratton as police chief.
"People are going to be surprised how many people appreciate that we've worked hard to make this a safer city," Hahn told radio host Steve Harvey on KKBT-FM (100.3).
On a more aggressive note, Hahn predicted success in making the runoff -- and in winning reelection in May.
"We will bury whoever is left on Wednesday," he told reporters in North Hollywood.
That remark drew a sharp response from Hertzberg, who said it was "sad to hear that kind of talk."