Mayoral candidates Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel in their final weekend… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)
After remarks by Magic Johnson and U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, it was Wendy Greuel's turn to remind a few dozen black supporters at a South L.A. rally on Saturday that African Americans could swing the mayoral election Greuel's way on Tuesday.
"They always underestimate this community," Greuel, the city controller, told the crowd outside her Crenshaw Boulevard office. "They've always underestimated me too. And what do we do? We prove them wrong."
While Greuel cast herself as the underdog in Tuesday's runoff, her rival, Eric Garcetti, warned volunteers in Westchester not to take victory for granted in a contest that remains fluid to the end.
"We're ahead, but we're not winning," the city councilman told them on a break from making phone calls to voters who might need some prodding. "Most people have not voted."
With the mayor's race drawing to a close, the two rivals dashed across Los Angeles on Saturday in a race to pick up support, with stops in Wilmington, Granada Hills, Venice Beach, Boyle Heights and points between.
After the release of a USC Price/Times poll showing Garcetti leading by 48% to 41%, Greuel tried to assure backers she could pull off a win, while Garcetti sought to guard against overconfidence, which could cost him the election.
But there was no escaping the mood of cautious optimism in Garcetti's camp and anxiety in Greuel's. At a Mexican seafood restaurant in Wilmington, Garcetti told dock worker Joe Cortez that he hoped Cortez would "be there July 1st for the swearing-in."
Later, Garcetti stepped outside and approached Arthur "Oldskool" Medina's glistening white 1968 Chevrolet Caprice low-rider sedan in the parking lot. He admired the hood's chrome engravings.
"I'm going to need an official mayor's car, you know?" Garcetti joked to the group of car enthusiasts who dropped by the event at Mariscos Agua Verde to urge him to open a racing strip on Terminal Island.
"I got one for you — 62 Impala convertible — ready to go, Eric," a bystander told him.
"I love it baby," Garcetti replied. "Certainly for the parades — we'll pull that one out."
Garcetti, whose paternal lineage is Mexican, is counting on strong Latino support in Wilmington, where he campaigned with former mayoral rival Emanuel Pleitez and ex-state Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres.
At Greuel's rally in South L.A., Johnson and Waters, a Democrat who represents the area, expressed confidence that she would win the African American vote in a rout.
"She's doing a great job in our community," Johnson, the former Lakers star, said in an interview. "Now we just have to see about the Valley, the Westside."
It was a tacit, if unintended, admission of Greuel's difficulty gaining dominance in the San Fernando Valley, her presumed political base, and the Westside, a key region that is up for grabs.
In an interview, Waters took note of Garcetti's attacks on Greuel's alliance with the union representing workers at the Department of Water and Power.
"I think Eric has done a job with using his money in attacking Wendy with the water and power and all of that, and attack ads work," Waters said.
Now, she added, it's a matter of turning out the vote — and in her remarks to the crowd, Waters did her part. "Wendy Greuel has given us an invitation to be at the table at City Hall and participate in decision making in ways we haven't done in a long time," Waters told Greuel's supporters.
For the most part, the candidates stayed positive Saturday. Garcetti told crowds that he had led the revival of Hollywood, Silver Lake and Echo Park. Greuel promised to focus on jobs, schools and street repairs. She also played up her potential to become the first female mayor of Los Angeles.
"After 163 years, it's about time — but this is about more than just breaking the glass ceiling," she told supporters at a rally with women outside a Planned Parenthood office in Exposition Park. "It's about ensuring that women have a clear and outspoken voice for the issues that are important to us."
But in Sun Valley, Garcetti pressed his case that Greuel could not be independent in salary talks with unions that have spent millions of dollars on independent efforts to get her elected mayor.
"On one side, $7 million — not raised by my opponent, but raised for her," he told dozens of volunteers at a film industry catering warehouse. "Fifty, a hundred, $500,000, $1 million at a time." (At Garcetti's side earlier in the Wilmington restaurant were members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which has spent $300,000 on independent efforts on Garcetti's behalf.)
At her Planned Parenthood rally, Greuel said her opponent would "say anything to get elected."
"Everything that he's done is negative," Greuel said. "And what that demonstrates, is that he sees that this election is very close."
Times staff writers Stephen Ceasar and Maloy Moore contributed to this report.