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Black voters losing clout but still crucial in L.A. mayor's race

April 09, 2013|By Michael Finnegan and Ben Welsh

The growth of the city's Latino and Asian populations since Tom Bradley left office in 1993 after 20 years as the city's first black mayor has left African Americans facing an inevitable decline in political power. In the May 21 election, an African American may lose a South Los Angeles council seat for the first time in 50 years.

In the mayoral contest, South Los Angeles remains a major battleground, and — if the candidates' attention to the community is a fair gauge — black voters could hold the key to selecting the city's next chief executive.

Their political power may be on the wane, said political scientist Jaime Regalado of Cal State L.A., but "they're counted on heavily to make a difference with their feet, at the polls, in this mayoral election."

FULL COVERAGE: L.A.'s race for mayor

"In some ways, it seems like a contradiction," he said.

African Americans were pivotal in choosing the city's last two mayors. In 2001, they were a pillar of support for James K. Hahn, the son of South Los Angeles political icon Kenneth Hahn, a Los Angeles County supervisor for 40 years.

But by 2005, black voters were instrumental in bouncing Hahn from office, switching loyalties to Villaraigosa after Hahn pushed for the ouster of a black police chief, Bernard C. Parks.

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Blacks made up 17% of the mayoral vote in 2001 and 15% in 2005. Much of that vote could be up for grabs in the May 21 mayoral runoff between Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti because African Americans make up a large share of the electorate in South Los Angeles, an area that went heavily for Jan Perry in the March primary.

Read Michael Finnegan's full story on the role of African Americans in the mayor's race here.

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