A mayoral campaign that has attracted little attention from voters in the nation’s second most populous city is headed for a May runoff that will pit two quintessential Los Angeles political insiders against one another.
And no matter who wins, history will be made.
City Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel were the top two finishers in a Tuesday election that attracted just 16 percent turnout. With neither candidate securing a majority of the vote, the campaign will continue into the spring. Voters will choose a winner on May 21.
Greuel would make history as the city’s first woman mayor. “We’re 11 weeks from making history, electing the first woman mayor,” she told supporters on Tuesday night.
Garcetti would be the first Jewish elected mayor of Los Angeles. His mother is Jewish while his father is of Mexican and Italian descent.
“Weekends were both filled with bowls of menudo and lots of bagels,” Garcetti told the Jewish Journal late last year. He added, “I think I have become more of a practicing Jew or observant later in life. I came to my faith in college.”
Technically, the mayor’s race is nonpartisan. But Los Angeles is a heavily Democratic city, and both Garcetti and and Greuel identify with the Democratic Party.
Garcetti is an academic-turned politician who was the president of the city council for six years. Greuel cut her teeth working for Tom Bradley, the first African American mayor of Los Angeles. She later joined the Department of Housing and Urban Development as an adviser during the Clinton administration, before returning to Los Angeles politics.
The winner will succeed term-limited Antonio Villaraigosa, the city’s first Hispanic mayor in more than a century. The Democrat has built a national profile and has expressed interest in becoming governor.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the candidates have largely avoided making broad promises in the campaign, opting instead to underscore their experience and attention to detail.
The latest returns form Tuesday’s election showed Garcetti taking about 33 percent of the vote and Greuel taking about 29 percent of the vote, with the remainder split up among six other contenders. In other words, Greuel and Garcetti weren’t separated by that many votes.
Indeed, the race may come down to which candidate does the best job of reaching out to supporters of the contenders who didn’t make the runoff. A USC/Los Angeles Times survey conducted late last month showed that more than a quarter of the electorate was undecided about their second choice in the race. Nearly identical percentages identified Garcetti (22.5 percent) and Greuel (22.6 percent) as second choices.
The survey also showed strong Latino support for Garcetti. Latinos make up about 40 percent of the electorate in Los Angeles.
One of Greuel’s strengths is her support from labor. The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that she is poised to land the backing of the Service Employees International Union.
Get to know these two names during the next couple of months, because you’ll be hearing a lot more nationally about one of them during the next four years.