LOS ANGELES — City Councilman Eric Garcetti edged past Controller Wendy Greuel in Tuesday’s primary election, emerging as the top vote-getter in one of the lowest turnouts in memory, moving the race to a May runoff between the City Hall veterans.
Garcetti received 33% in an unofficial count of ballots, compared with 29% for Greuel, a four-point advantage that Garcetti said he would immediately build upon in a dash to the May 21 general election.
“I’m ready to get up as early as it takes,” Garcetti told cheering supporters gathered at Avalon nightclub in Hollywood late Tuesday as the primary results became clear. “Tomorrow we’re going to get up, we’re going to get to work, and we’re going to win this campaign.”
Greuel wasn’t conceding anything, telling her own supporters that she would emerge victorious by focusing on a plan for delivering core services that have been lacking, such as fixing Los Angeles streets and reducing emergency response times.
She also hit a campaign theme that is sure to take prominence in the weeks ahead.
“We’re 11 weeks from making history, electing the first woman mayor,” Greuel said. “And, of course, the first mom.”
On Wednesday, the Service Employees International Union 721, which represents 10,000 city workers, endorsed Greuel.
The union did not endorse a candidate in Tuesday’s election. She is already supported by the union representing Department of Water and Power workers.
Turnout of the 1.8 million registered voters in the city was an anemic 16%, far below the 34% seen when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa won office in 2005.
Election officials, however, said that uncounted mail-in ballots may boost turnout and change vote totals in the days ahead.
Los Angeles voters elected three new City Council members and returned two incumbents to office.
Candidates in three other council races did not get at least 50% of the vote, and the top two finishers in those contests will face off in May.
In the city attorney’s race, former Assemblyman Mike Feuer led incumbent City Atty. Carmen Trutanich with 44% of the vote, not enough to win outright.
And the controller’s race moves to a matchup between City Councilman Dennis Zine and Ron Galperin, a lawyer and city commissioner, with each taking 37% of the vote.
Angelenos turned down Proposition A, a half-cent sales tax hike, with 55% voting against it and 45% in favor.
Finding ways to close the city’s chronic budget shortfalls without the revenue, estimated at $1 billion over the next five years, is sure to dominate the mayoral and council campaigning that remains.
Former Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield won 52% of the vote to win the 3rd district seat representing Reseda, Canoga Park and Woodland Hills.
On the opposite side of the San Fernando Valley, former Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes squeaked past three challengers with 51% of the vote to win the 7th district seat representing Arleta, Pacoima and Sunland-Tujunga.
In the 11th district, Mike Bonin, longtime chief of staff to outgoing Councilman Bill Rosendahl, easily beat out his competitors with 61% of the vote.
Two City Council incumbents, Paul Koretz and Joe Buscaino, easily won reelection.
Three City Council races remain undecided. In the 1st district, former California Sen. Gil Cedillo, with 49% of the vote, will face off with Jose Gardea, outgoing Councilman Ed Reyes’ chief deputy.
In the 9th district being vacated by Councilwoman Jan Perry, State Sen. Curren Price captured 27% of the vote and will face Ana Cubas, who received 24%, in May.
The most competitive council race was the free for all in the 13th district, representing the Hollywood and Silverlake areas.
Mitch O’Farrell, a senior advisor to the outgoing Garcetti, was the top vote getter with 18%. He advances to the runoff against John Choi, who formerly sat on the city’s Board of Public Works. Choi polled 16% of the vote.
In the Los Angeles Unified School District board races, Monica Garcia and Steve Zimmer won election to two seats and a third, district No. 6, moves to a runoff between Antonio Sanchez, an educator, and teacher Monica Ratliff.
Mike Eng easily won election to the Los Angeles Community College District board, with 64% of the vote, as did Ernest Moreno with 67%.
A third college board seat moves to a runoff between David Vela and Nancy Pearlman.
As with most elections, the ballots still to be tallied consist of vote-by-mail ballots, including some that were turned in on election day, as well as provisional and damaged ballots.
Still, Garcetti and Greuel hold seemingly insurmountable leads over the next closest finishers — attorney Kevin James and Councilwoman Jan Perry — who appeared to be in a dead heat for third place, the vote count showed.
Emanuel Pleitez on Tuesday night conceded defeat as early returns showed he was capturing just a sliver of the vote.
-Los Angeles Times