After months of buildup and millions of dollars spent on a blizzard of television ads and mailers, Los Angeles voters went to the polls Tuesday and selected Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel to advance to a mayoral runoff. The long-time City Hall hands don’t have any plans to let up the day after the primary. They will be busy on the campaign trail on Wednesday, with Greuel expected to pick up the endorsement of another union representing city workers.
Rivals Jan Perry and Kevin James did not offer their concessions Tuesday night. James, who has never held elected office, received a hair more support than Perry, a three-term Los Angeles councilwoman, in the final tally. A key question going forward will be whether they endorse Garcetti or Greuel, because their supporters could propel one of the finalists to victory.
Turnout in the city races was dismal at 16% in a contested mayoral primary. That’s lower than four years ago, when an incumbent was running for reelection. Political experts have speculated that the distinct lack of enthusiasm may have been caused by voter fatigue after a bruising and long presidential contest, coupled with a lack of excitement about the mayoral field.
The voters who turned out overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to raise the city’s sales tax by a half-cent to one of the highest in the state. While all the major mayoral candidates opposed the measure, its failure creates a new headache for the next mayor of the city, which will face budget deficits projected at $216 million a year and more.
The city school board races saw an inordinate amount of outside spending, with two camps pouring millions of dollars into the contests. One side is funded by supporters of the policies advocated by L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wrote a $1 million check for that camp. The other side has the support of teachers unions. The result is a mixed bag for both sides, with board president Monica Garcia, a Deasy supporter, and Steve Zimmer, a union-backed candidate, both winning reelection.
Sacramento veterans lead in City Council races, and the city attorney and controller are also headed for a runoff.
Vote-counting took hours, but the greatest drama of the day took place in the morning. A morning shooting occurred outside a polling place in Watts, injuring a poll worker and halting voting for 30 minutes. The 35-year-old victim’s injuries were not life threatening. Police described the incident as a possible “love triangle” and are seeking a suspect.
Columnist Steve Lopez checked in on Election Day with the voters he has been in periodic touch with since January. They voted, despite their frustration with the field and with City Hall. “No one is turning cartwheels,” Lopez wrote.
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