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No rest for mayoral hopeful Eric Garcetti, who's ready for a runoff

March 5, 2013 | 12:12 pm

PHOTOS: Los Angeles voters go to the polls

L.A. mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti wasn’t carrying any lucky charms when he went to vote Tuesday morning in Silver Lake, but he said he was ready to launch the next phase of the campaign — his expected runoff with City Controller Wendy Greuel.

As voters headed to the polls Tuesday in Los Angeles, the former City Council president was locked in a tight race with Greuel. In last week’s USC Price/Los Angeles Times poll, Garcetti had support from 27% of those surveyed and Greuel had 25% — a statistical tie because of the margin of error — while the three other major candidates were bunched behind. Former prosecutor and radio host Kevin James was at 15%, City Councilwoman Jan Perry was at 14% and former technology executive Emanuel Pleitez was fifth with 5%.

If no candidate breaks 50%, the top two vote-getters will enter a May runoff.

PHOTOS: Los Angeles voters go to the polls

“We’re going to be up late tonight,” Garcetti said, alluding to his close race with Greuel.

But Garcetti said he has no plans for down time if he makes it into the runoff, even though he and his rivals have been running at a breakneck pace for more than a year.

Asked if he planned to unwind after the returns come in Tuesday night, he replied: “I’m going to not unwind. We’re hitting the ground running tomorrow morning.”

FULL COVERAGE: L.A.'s race for mayor

Though the mayoral candidates and their allies have spent more than $19 million on television ads and mailers, they have had trouble breaking through with voters. Independent groups have spent more than $2.7 million on behalf of Greuel, prompting allegations from her rivals that she would be beholden to the labor interests who are pulling for her. That rate of spending is expected to accelerate in the two-person runoff.

“Millions of dollars of special interest money from the [Department of Water & Power] union flowed in here, unregulated, at the last minute,” Garcetti said Tuesday. “Almost 3 million extra dollars for Ms. Greuel’s campaign. That was a big contrast -- and the fact that we’re running neck and neck, when she has 3 million dollars more, says a lot about this campaign and what we’ve put out there.”

“I don’t think people want this campaign to be bought and paid for by one group,” he said.

WHERE THEY STAND: Mayoral candidates in their own words

Greuel has defended her campaign, noting that she has no control over independent expenditures on her behalf and that they have come from an array of interests including business leaders and former colleagues at Dreamworks, where she was an executive before she ran for City Council in 2002. 

“The only people I’m beholden to are the people of Los Angeles,” Greuel said during a 5 a.m. campaign stop Monday at the L.A. produce market. “I’ve been a very tough controller -- even on, yes, DWP -- more audits on that department than any other single department.”

“As far as I’m concerned, they’ll get nothing in return,” she said of the DWP union’s support, “other than I’ll be a good mayor for Los Angeles.”  

Turnout is expected to be low today — only about a fifth of the voters who requested absentee ballots returned them. And the top two candidates have offered few specifics about how they would stabilize the city’s finances.

Garcetti said he’d been telling voters throughout the city that the job of mayor is even more important to their lives than the job of president.

“These are the roads we drive on, the economy you’re a part of -- so I hope that folks who are out there today looking at this will come out until 8 o’clock to impact their life right here,” he said. “What people give, they get. So if you don’t show up -- you can’t expect a lot.”

For an overview of Tuesday’s election, go to the Los Angeles Times voter guide. Angelenos can find their polling place through the Los Angeles County website.


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-- Maeve Reston

maeve.reston@latimes.com; twitter.com/maevereston

Photo: L.A. City Councilman Eric Garcetti and his wife, Amy Wakeland, cast their ballots at Allesandro Elementary School. Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images