L.A. mayor’s race live: Garcetti, Greuel hold on to their lead
As election results in the L.A. mayor’s race trickled in Tuesday night, Controller Wendy Greuel and Councilman Eric Garcetti continued to lead the pack in early returns.
Along with a substantial chunk of mail-in ballots, city elections officials have tallied votes from 2.5% of precincts in the city – just a sliver of the ballots likely to be cast.
Opinion polls cast Garcetti and Greuel as the front-runners in the race which, by all indications, will probably be decided in a May runoff between the top-two finishers.
Councilwoman Jan Perry captured enough votes in the early returns to hold onto third place, with attorney Kevin James, the only Republican in the race, slightly behind her.
In the race for city attorney, former Assemblyman Mike Feuer and incumbent Carmen Trutanich were locked in a tight contest. City Councilman Dennis Zine was leading in the race for city controller.
A measure to add a half-cent to the city’s sales tax continued to trail in early returns. The measure, Proposition A, would bring sales taxes in Los Angeles to 9.5%, one of the highest rates in the state, and raise $200 million a year for the city treasury.
With more than 111,000 mail-in ballots tallied in Tuesday’s Los Angeles city election, Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel pulled out to early leads in the race for mayor--with the two running virtually neck-and-neck.
Councilwoman Jan Perry trailed in third place, according to the early returns.
Still, it was far too early in the vote count for any lead to be secure. Los Angeles has just over 1.8 million registered voters.
Before the polls opened Tuesday, the city clerk’s office had received 148,846 mail-in ballots from voters in the city, or 8.2% of the total number of registered voters. More voters voted by mail than in the first round of either the 2001 or 2005 city elections, but there are also many more residents who received mail ballots this year than in those elections.
Of the total 663,086 mail-in ballots issued this year, 22.4% had been returned by the start of election day. In 2001 and 2005, a much higher percentage of ballots — about half — had been returned by election day. But the city sent out only about 200,000 mail ballots in each of those elections.
In the race for city attorney, former Assemblyman Mike Feuer was leading incumbent Carmen Trutanich. City Councilman Dennis Zine was leading in the race for city controller.
--Phil Willon and James Rainey
The city of Los Angeles may be in the grips of its most serious and prolonged financial crisis in memory, but voters didn't clamor to the polls Tuesday to decide who should fix the mess.
The election had the mayor’s office, a majority of City Council seats and a half-cent sales tax on the line, but Angelenos only trickled to voting booths -- which closed at 8 p.m.
The city clerk’s office said it expected to post its first returns -- from mail-in ballots received by last Saturday -- a half hour after voting ended. The timing of final results remains unpredictable because many of the contests -- particularly the half-cent sales tax, Measure A -- are expected to be close.
Election officials reported no widespread irregularities, although one polling place in Watts closed temporarily in the morning after the shooting of a poll worker. And more than one voting location in the north San Fernando Valley also had to contend with a power outage after nightfall.
Police called the shooting of the 35-year-old poll worker part of a domestic dispute. A hospital treated the worker for injuries that were not life-threatening and the voting place reopened a half-hour later in a mobile polling station next to the auditorium at 92nd Street Elementary School.
The power outage shut down a polling place on Del Sur Street in Pacoima, according to Felipe Fuentes, a council candidate in District 7. Fuentes said he used the light from his mobile phone to help voters find their names on the rolls so they could receive their ballots.
Fewer than 18% of the city’s registered voters cast ballots in the 2009 mayoral election featuring incumbent Antonio Villaraigosa and nine little-known, underfunded challengers. Villaraigoa won a second term outright in the primary, capturing enough of the vote to make a runoff unnecessary.
Thirty-four percent voted four years earlier in the runoff that made Villaraigosa the first Latino mayor in the city’s modern history.
Turnout for the first round of Los Angeles municipal elections is typically low, though most candidates said they hoped the closely contested mayoral race -- being led in recent polls by Councilman Eric
Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel -- would inspire more interest.
After voting Tuesday morning near his Silver Lake home, Garcetti, 42, said he hoped people would come out.
“I always want to see higher turnout,” said Garcetti, who is leaving his Hollywood-area council seat. “I think it’s critical for our democracy. What people give, they get. So if you don’t show up—you can’t expect a lot.”
Casting her early morning vote in Studio City, Greuel, 51, also urged Angelenos to vote, saying “this is your civic duty and responsibility."
But Kevin James, an entertainment attorney and the lone Republican on the ballot, told KFI-AM (640) talk radio hosts John and Ken that a low turnout could aid his long-shot bid.
“The people who are turning out are those who want Los Angeles to head in a new direction,” James said.
In a poll published Sunday by The Times, James ran a distant third to Garcetti and Greuel. The USC Sol Price School of Public Policy/L.A. Times Los Angeles City Primary poll had Garcetti at 27%, Greuel at 25%, James at 15% and Councilwoman Jan Perry at 14%.
But the race remained remarkably fluid, with 14% of likely voters undecided and almost half of those who had chosen a candidate saying they still might changed their minds.
ALSO:On talk radio, James is optimistic about L.A. mayoral chances
-- James Rainey
Photo: Anna Donlin gives her dogs Walnut and Pearl a treat at a polling station at Allesandro Elementary School on Tuesday. Creidt: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times