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Garcetti leads with majority of ballots uncounted

Eric Garcetti embraces state assemblyman Isadore Hall III at a rally Tuesday night. Early voting results placed Garcetti in the lead.

By Fiona Kirby

May 22, 2013 2:47 a.m.

The fate of the next mayoral election was up in the air Tuesday night, as vote counts trickled in from the mayoral election runoff vote and made the results too close to call by press time.

City Councilman Eric Garcetti held a slight lead with about 51 percent, or about 81,300 votes, as of 11 p.m., while City Controller Wendy Greuel trailed slightly with about 49 percent, or about 77,800 votes, as of press time. Only about 16 percent of poll ballots and 84 percent of mail-in ballots had been counted.

Garcetti looked back on his campaign as he addressed a crowd of about 2,100 supporters in Hollywood Tuesday night.

“We didn’t have the most money or the biggest endorsements, but we had a people power campaign,” he said.

Meanwhile, Greuel spoke to a crowd of about 400 supporters who gathered in downtown Los Angeles to await the ballot counts Tuesday night.

“No one said it’s gonna be easy or quick, and sometimes the day in politics doesn’t end,” Greuel said.

It may take up to several weeks to count all the ballots. Experts have said votes might not be counted immediately because of their distance from downtown Los Angeles, and many voters may have mailed in their ballots at the last minute, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Ben LaZebnik, a campaign intern responsible for calling voters, said he believes the Garcetti campaign can pull through because they have passionate volunteers and a quality candidate.

It is not unusual for mayoral races to be close, but Garcetti had recently been experiencing a lead in the polls, said Raphael Sonenshein, a political science professor at California State University, Los Angeles.

“There seems to be less at stake in this election (than in previous ones) because the candidates are very similar,” he said.

Xavier Cardiel, a Roosevelt High School student who attended a rally in downtown Los Angeles for Wendy Greuel on Tuesday, said he supports Greuel because of her education policies.

“She is the candidate that will help out public schools the most. She has a kid in public school and her family is from the same area as us,” he said.

The race between Garcetti and Greuel was close for much of the election season.

The vote in the primary election in March was split between Garcetti, with 33 percent, and Greuel, with 29 percent. Because no candidate received 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates had to compete again in the runoff election Tuesday.

Neither of the candidates are as well known as mayoral candidates from past years, Sonenshein said. Both campaigns focused much more on advertising endorsements the candidates received from prominent individuals or groups, he said.

In past debates, Garcetti said he intends to ease the job-seeking process for L.A. residents, carry out pension reform for city jobs, and facilitate greater communication between the city and its residents.

Garcetti has said he is also interested in partnering with Los Angeles-based colleges like UCLA because he thinks the city could benefit from more students immediately entering the Los Angeles job market upon graduation.

Greuel, who is also a UCLA alumna, has said she plans to balance the city budget without pandering to special interest groups.

She has also said she will focus on business tax reform, pension reform and fixing administrative inefficiencies in City Hall.

In past debates, she has said she intends to keep college students in Los Angeles after they graduate by encouraging the growth of Los Angeles businesses and actively recruiting college students.

If elected, Greuel will be Los Angeles’ first female mayor.

After being sworn in on July 1, Sonenshein said he thinks the elected mayor – either Garcetti or Greuel – will probably focus more on smaller tasks rather than big picture items.

“It’s problems of fixing things like cracked sidewalks, potholes and leaky pipes; it’s not a lack of vision,” he said.

The new mayor will also need to build an administration that reflects his or her values and brings in people he or she trusts, Sonenshein said.

Mayoral administrations typically include city commissioners, who will help to carry out specific aspects of city government, and the chief of staff, who will work directly at City Hall.

Sonenshein added the elected candidate will likely concentrate on understanding the budget and how city services are going to be financed, and try to connect with those who supported his or her opposing candidate.

The new mayor will face one of his or her first major challenges in January when negotiating new contracts related to salary increases and pension with city employees, Sonenshein said.

“This is the big mystery for voters, who’s going to be the better negotiator,” he said.

Both candidates have worked with the university for years, partnering on issues related to transportation and to the environment, said Felicia Brannon, executive director of community and local relations at UCLA.

“I see the same happening as we forward with either candidate,” she said.

Contributing reports from Annie Lu and Hee Jae Xai, Bruin contributors.

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