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Krekorian defeats Essel in L.A. City Council race

December 9, 2009 | 12:06 am
Assemblyman Paul Krekorian claimed victory tonight in the bitter and expensive race for the Los Angeles City Council seat previously held by City Controller Wendy Greuel.

Krekorian, the former head of the Burbank Board of Education who was elected to the Assembly in 2006, defeated former film executive Christine Essel by a 14% margin with all precincts reporting

Krekorian’s win was a major rebuke to some of the city’s most powerful unions, which flooded the race with hundreds of thousands of dollars in independent expenditures to support his rival.

At his campaign headquarters Tuesday night,  Krekorian said voters had united around "a common vision about a city government that is marked by integrity and accountability, for starters — a city government that actually works for the people of the San Fernando Valley."

“We’re all going to have to continue to work together and if we do, I think this is a time that all of us will be able to look back to and say that the reform of Los Angeles began tonight,”  Krekorian said. 

Essel could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Essel also outspent Krekorian 2 to 1 in Tuesday’s runoff and the primary campaign, where they faced  eight other candidates.

Outside groups, including the Los Angeles Police Protective League and the union representing workers at the city’s Department of Water and Power, spent nearly $1 million, setting a record for independent spending in a non-citywide race — with most of that money backing Essel.

Both candidates grew up in the San Fernando Valley but moved into the 2nd Council District, which stretches from Sherman Oaks and Studio City to Tujunga, in May to run for Greuel’s seat.

Essel argued that her three decades of business experience at Paramount Pictures Corp. made her uniquely suited to work on retaining businesses in Los Angeles and creating jobs. Krekorian said he had a better understanding of the issues facing residents of the district, after representing some of them in the Assembly. He courted neighborhood leaders throughout the race, promising to curb development and preserve open space.

-- Maeve Reston

Photo: Candidate Paul Krekorian with his son Andrew, 4, votes Tuesday in the special election for the Los Angeles City Council 2nd District seat in the library at Ulysses S. Grant High School in the Valley Glen neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley. Credit: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times