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Voters to Decide on City Attorney, Sales Tax Hike

LOS ANGELES — In addition to choosing a new mayor, Angelenos heading to the polls on Tuesday will vote on a city attorney and a proposition to increase the city’s sales tax.

In the race for city attorney, the candidates have spent close to $3 million, making it one of the most expensive non-mayoral contests in city politics history.

city-attorneyA recent USC Price/L.A. Times poll shows a fluid and close three-way race for two spots on a likely runoff ballot.

Incumbent Carmen Trutanich has raised about a half-million dollars, but the poll showed him with just 16.4% of likely voters.

Former lawmaker Mike Feuer is at 23.8%, according to the poll.

Feuer served three terms as a state assemblyman, and says he wants to get back into city politics.He ran for city attorney and was defeated back in 2001.

The third major contender is Greg Smith, a private attorney who has represented police officers and firefighters in discrimination and whistle-blower lawsuits.

Smith is at about 15% of the vote in the polls right now. By the end of last week, he had had put $737,000 into his race.

A fourth candidate on Tuesday’s ballot, private attorney Noel Weiss, has not had the money to mount a citywide campaign.

Voters are evenly divided on a tax increase measure that some city leaders are counting on to generate $1 billion over the next five years and help close the city’s budget shortfall.

All the top mayoral candidates oppose the tax increase, which would boost the city’s sales tax to 9.5%, one of the highest in the state.

Opponents of the half-percent tax hike argue that it is only a short-term fix.

Backers, led by Villaraigosa, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and City Council President Herb Wesson, say that after years of service cutback, the city needs more revenue to protect public safety.

Los Angeles city polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Elsewhere in Los Angeles County, 33 cities also are holding local elections.

Turnout by the 1.8 million registered voters in the city is expected to be below the 34% seen in 2005, when Villaraigosa won election to become L.A.’s first Latino mayor in modern times.

The city clerk has issued 663,065 vote-by-mail ballots — about a fifth had been returned by Monday .

The median Los Angeles turnout is 26%, compared to 48% in Chicago, 44% in Philadelphia and 41% in San Francisco, according to a 2007 study by a University of Michigan professor.

-KTLA/Los Angeles Times

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