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Koretz, Vahedi lead in 5th City Council District in L.A.

March 04, 2009|David Zahniser and Maeve Reston

Former state Assemblyman Paul Koretz was battling neighborhood council member David T. Vahedi for the top spot in the contest for the only vacant seat on the Los Angeles City Council, according to early election returns.

In the crowded six-way race to replace Councilman Jack Weiss in the 5th District, Koretz and Vahedi were nearly tied for much of the evening, leaving both men on edge.

"I'm in first, but the actual number of votes is so small," said Koretz, who also spent 12 years on the West Hollywood City Council. "It's such an evenly matched race, it's unbelievable, and it still could change."

Further behind were attorney and businessman Ron Galperin; businesswoman Robyn Ritter Simon; nonprofit group director Adeena Bleich, a onetime aide to Weiss; and entertainment lawyer Robert Schwartz, partial results showed.

The top two vote-getters will face off in the May 19 runoff election.

Voters in the 5th District have a long history of picking younger candidates and less established names.

In 1953, they selected 22-year-old Rosalind Wiener -- better known in later years by her married name, Wyman. In 1975, the district chose 26-year-old up-and-comer Zev Yaroslavsky, now a veteran county supervisor.

For much of this campaign, district voters and outside observers were struck by the closeness of the race, which unfolded in affluent neighborhoods such as Bel-Air, Beverlywood, Cheviot Hills, Encino and Westwood.

The campaign came two years after a vocal contingent of neighborhood activists sought to remove Weiss, a candidate for city attorney in Tuesday's election, saying he had shown little interest in development concerns and the bread-and-butter work of constituent issues.

When that effort fizzled, several of Weiss' critics coalesced behind Vahedi, who ran unsuccessfully for the office in 2005.

Vahedi credited his strong initial showing to his work in the community and the fact that he promised not to accept campaign contributions from real estate interests.

"The fact that I was able to do this without special interest money is huge," he said.

Koretz picked up support from Weiss' predecessor, Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles), as well as the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

Meanwhile, Bleich secured the backing of former Mayor Richard Riordan, former 11th District Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

Throughout the campaign, the six contenders put a heavy emphasis on the recent development boom and its effect on traffic congestion. Residents also voiced dismay at the proliferation of digital billboards and supergraphics in the last two years.

While the battle for Weiss' seat was seen as unpredictable, Tuesday's seven other council races were far less compelling.

Council members Jan Perry and Richard Alarcon had no opponents.

Five other incumbents -- Ed Reyes, Dennis Zine, Bill Rosendahl, Eric Garcetti and Janice Hahn -- breezed to victory over their opponents.

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david.zahniser@latimes.com

maeve.reston@latimes.com

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