warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Garcetti And Greuel Advance In L.A.'s Parliamentary Mayoral Race

Matt Pressberg |
March 6, 2013 | 2:12 a.m. PST


Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel move on to round two of the mayoral race. (Didi Beck/Neon Tommy)
Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel move on to round two of the mayoral race. (Didi Beck/Neon Tommy)
After a smattering of Angelenos chose to exercise their constitutional rights Tuesday, it appears we’re set for the runoff most everyone expected: ex-city council president Eric Garcetti vs. former controller Wendy Greuel. Expect a lot of identity politics pandering between now and May 21. I’m sure we’ll see more than a few “me llamo Eric Garcetti” commercials, and Greuel may well walk down the streets of South L.A. wearing an airbrushed Tom Bradley t-shirt.

Think of the next round as kind of like a European parliamentary race. Garcetti and Greuel will be reaching out to distinct groups as they attempt to put together a governing coalition that gives them a simple majority. Garcetti’s been beating Greuel with Latinos and seems to be strong with creative types who tend to occupy a roughly concentric ring around his Hollywood home base, and Greuel leads among whites and fellow residents of the 818. African-Americans (to whom Greuel has been touting her experience working for former mayor Bradley), Asians and Westside Jews are up for grabs. The good thing about this happening in America, and not Europe or Israel, is that nobody has to reach out to the white nationalist party.

Loyola Marymount professor and political commentator Fernando Guerra set the scene last week:

“I think what Eric is trying to do is create a multicultural coalition of Latinos, Asians, Jews and African-Americans. But as we just spoke earlier, it doesn't look like he's resonating with the African-Americans, and even when you take a look at the "Jewish vote", it's really splintered among various candidates. We've seen him try the Jewish community as the Jewish candidate and he's getting his fair share, whereas Wendy Greuel, interestingly enough, is trying to put together or has just been forced because of the way things are being played out, kind of a James Hahn coalition of African-Americans and people from the [San Fernando] Valley.”

Even though she’s not going to make the final episode of Top Councilmember, Jan Perry may end up picking the city’s next mayor. The potential king—or queen—maker has a loyal African-American base, and the former 9th district councilwoman’s endorsement could deliver enough of those voters to push her chosen candidate over 50 percent.

Early results are disappointing for former radio host and debate fan favorite Kevin James. Despite a late money bomb from Texas financier Harold Simmons and an endorsement and some quality time with popular ex-mayor Grandpa Dick Riordan, James sits in third place with 16 percent of the vote. L.A. is not exactly favorable terrain for the GOP, but it’s still a place where a socially liberal Republican like James (or Riordan or Schwarzenegger) can perform well in a field without any Democrats who have really distinguished themselves.

James’ improbable but not impossible path to success was to energize a critical amount of people in a usually reliably voting coalition of Republicans and Riordan Democrats from the West Valley to put up a high enough score and use the expected low turnout in the rest of the city to hang on to second place and a spot in the finale. The low turnout materialized; James’ support didn’t.

Elsewhere down-ballot:

The big surprise this evening has been current school board president Monica Garcia destroying the field in her district election. Garcia is currently winning a majority of the votes, which if it holds, would give her a first-round knockout against four distant challengers. L.A.’s teachers’ union endorsed the rare “anybody but Monica” position and Monica rolled.

L.A. Unified’s three school board elections became the latest battleground for the school reform movement, as former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee and serving size czar Michael Bloomberg pumped serious cash into these races in support of a slate of candidates (also endorsed by Villaraigosa) who support the reformist agenda of the current superintendent, John Deasy: Garcia, Kate Anderson and Antonio Sanchez.

Garcia is cruising and Sanchez (who was also endorsed by the teachers’ union) is set for the runoff. Only Anderson, whose fate will be decided in this round because she’s only facing one opponent, finds herself behind, currently by 5 percent in her mostly West Los Angeles and South of Ventura Valley district.

The takeaway here seems to be that relatively affluent Westside and Mulholland people are happier with their board member (who has been a relative moderate and was endorsed by the mayor last go-round), the status quo of the neighborhood public schools they don’t send their children to, or some combination of both than are parents in other parts of town.

Can Nuch hang on?

Former Assemblyman Mike Feuer, his mustache and incumbent city attorney, Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich will headline the second highest-profile duel in May. Trutanich was convincingly elected in 2009 and has seemingly been feuding with everyone from Tim Leiweke to scalpers to stoners ever since.

Nuch reached his nadir (or Nader) when he finished an embarrassing third in last year’s county district attorney race, but bounced back to give himself a chance to win a second term in his current job, although he currently trails longtime political figure Feuer by 13 points with about 90 percent of the city’s vote counted. Despite an endorsement from the Daily News, and plenty of (largely self-funded) visibility on TV, private attorney Greg Smith is headed for a distant third-place finish.

Zine or Galperin?

The under-the-radar city controller race will pit former West Valley councilman and police officer Dennis Zine against lawyer Ron Galperin, who have both cleared the rest of field and are headed for a runoff. The two candidates are currently separated by less than one percentage point, which should mean the race will really heat up, and we’ll see a lot more of these guys on TV.

Who will win the wild 13th?

L.A. also held primaries for 8 of its 15 city council seats Tuesday, of which only three ended up being competitive. Incumbents Paul Koretz and Joe Buscaino retained their seats handily, and candidates Mike Bonin, Felipe Fuentes and Bob Blumenfield appear headed for more than 50 percent of the vote in this round and seats on the next city council.

Gil Cedillo and Jose Gardea are running very close in the 1st district, but both are safely in May’s runoff. Jan Perry’s old stomping grounds, the 9th district, had really low turnout (I wonder if a strong grassroots campaign for a random person, driving old ladies to the poll and whatnot, could have snatched a spot in the runoff given how few people came out), but it looks like Curren Price and Ana Cubas will battle it out next round. Price leads with a grand total of 2336 votes with 92 percent of the district’s votes in.

In the 13th district election, Mitch O’Farrell and John Choi are currently in runoff position, with O’Farrell leading the field with 18 percent of the vote, Choi at 16 and three other candidates in double figures. Real, unpredictable democracy. I like it.

No new taxes

The last and potentially most impactful contest on Tuesday’s ballot, Proposition A, a proposed half-cent city of Los Angeles sales tax increase, is likely to fail. However, its current 10 point trailing margin is closer than many people might have expected, going by the generally true rule that voters don’t like to tax themselves unless they get something cool and shiny like a stadium or subway. Paying bills for services isn’t sexy.

Most of the no votes on this proposition are direct reactions from people who do not personally want to pay more sales taxes, but even though the city really does need the money, a sales tax is one of the more regressive ways to raise it. I’m in favor of the tax increase because I worry about the city’s finances and that half-cent hike isn’t going to change my lifestyle in any meaningful way nor affect consumer behavior that would make businesses want to move, but I can see how someone who spends a much higher share of his income on retail purchases in the city of Los Angeles could be reasonably opposed to it.

Read more of Neon Tommy’s coverage of the L.A. primary election here.

Reach Editor-at-Large Matt Pressberg



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.