LOS ANGELES – City Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel, who led the field of mayoral candidates in fundraising, were preparing today for a May 21 runoff in the race to become the city’s next chief executive.
The results of Tuesday’s primary election went pretty much as expected, with Garcetti and Greuel jumping to early leads in the eight-candidate race and never relenting, but both falling short of the 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff.
Councilwoman Jan Perry was a distant third in the race, followed by businessman Kevin James.
Garcetti and Greuel easily outpaced their competitors in primary election fundraising, with each collecting more than $4 million.
James and ex-tech executive Emanuel Pleitez rounded out the list of the more widely featured candidates; while Yehuda “YJ” Draiman, Norton Sandler and perennial candidate Addie M. Miller were also vying for the job. Greuel, Garcetti and Perry formed a trifecta of sitting elected officials who touted their experience in the public sector while facing two self-described political outsiders in James and Pleitez.
James was the sole Republican in the non-partisan race and would have been the first openly gay mayor if elected. Greuel would be the city’s first female mayor.
“You know, ladies and gentlemen, we are just 11 weeks from electing a mayor for all of Los Angeles so no part of our city is left behind,” Greuel told supporters last night in downtown Los Angeles. “And yes, we’re 11 weeks from making history, electing the first woman mayor, and of course, first mom for the mayor of the greatest city …
“Los Angeles deserves tough and strong leadership, a leader tough enough to weed out waste, fraud and abuse at City Hall and bring our fiscal house in order. I am that leader.”
At his election-night party in Hollywood, Garcetti rallied his supporters by echoing a theme of his campaign — job creation and development in his 13th District. He also touted his “record of real pension reform, of responsible budget cutting, of getting ourselves through tough times so that we could protect core services that people depend on in our neighborhoods.”
“It’s why this district is ranked number one by the Chamber of Commerce in job growth in the midst of a recession,” he said. “I’d like to say we accomplished this because of great leadership, but we didn’t, at least not in the singular sense. We did it because leadership, we understood, doesn’t just exist up here at a podium. But it’s out there on the streets. It’s every block and every street and every neighborhood in this city that is waiting to be unleashed. The creativity and the genius that is Los Angeles, we will bring back, and that’s what I’m going to do as the next mayor of Los Angeles.”
The city’s looming $200 million-plus budget deficit in the upcoming year is arguably the most pressing issue on tap for L.A.’s next chief executive. Along with ballooning pension costs, the future mayor will be faced with a shortage of funds that could jeopardize critical services in years to come.
During the campaign, Greuel, a former councilwoman, boasted experience in both the public and private sphere, having spent five years as an executive at animation company DreamWorks.
She was noted for declaring, with some dispute from opponents, that as city controller she dug up $160 million in “waste, fraud and abuse.” She was also fond of plugging her time as a deputy mayor in Tom Bradley’s administration.
Greuel took hits from opponents over her financial backing by unions such as the IBEW Local 18, which represents Department of Water and Power workers, and the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the police union. A recent tally put union contributions to a super PAC supporting Greuel’s campaign at $2.5 million.
Later today, the Service Employees International Union will announce its endorsement of Greuel in the runoff election.
Meanwhile, a promise by Greuel to increase police ranks by 2,000 officers was slammed by her opponents as unreasonable, if not suspect, given the city’s budget and the types of groups funding her campaign.
Greuel, 51, tried to counter the perception she would bow to union pressure by promising not to raise salaries for DWP workers if the city still faces a deficit next year.
“We are going to cross the finish line with Wendy,” city Police Commissioner John Mack told the crowd at Greuel’s election-night party.
He added that Greuel was “deeply committed to making sure our mosaic of a city will be at the table.”
Garcetti, a native of Silver Lake, ran a campaign that sporadically took advantage of his show biz connections, whether it was getting an endorsement from comedian Will Ferrell or accompanying electronic music D.J. Moby on the keyboard at a fundraiser.
Garcetti comes with an Ivy League resume that includes undergraduate and graduate degrees from Columbia University and a year studying as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University, and later the London School of Economics. He is also noted for having traveled to 80 countries, including on charity and relief missions.
Garcetti, 42, has had to counter claims that he helped contribute to the budget deficit by voting to raise salaries for public safety and other city employees.
Some observers have blamed an early lack of tough budget-related decisions on then-Council President Garcetti and his penchant for consensus- building, which is normally considered an attribute but can also be ammunition for opponents equating it to an unwillingness to stand-up to powerful entities like city employee unions.
During the campaign, Garcetti touted his role in the redevelopment of once-blighted areas of Hollywood, as well as his record on environmentally friendly policy-making — such as solar-energy initiatives — and his endorsement by the Sierra Club.
As the primary election neared, however, Pleitez filed ethics complaints alleging Garcetti held shares in billboard company Clear Channel and The Home Depot while voting on council items involving both. Garcetti has denied any conflict of interest.
Greuel criticized the development of Hollywood, saying it brought traffic and air pollution to the area. A petition was also circulated urging Garcetti to withdraw shares he has in oil company Venoco.
Unlike Greuel, Garcetti swore off independent contributions throughout much of his campaign, and as a result trailed in spending power. A PAC supporting Garcetti was recently formed, not for the primary election, but for the May 21 general election.