Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti opened a convincing election-night lead in his bid to become the first Jewish mayor of America’s second-largest city as it faces an increasingly gloomy financial outlook, returns showed late on Tuesday.
Garcetti, whose mother is Jewish, drew 53 percent of the vote, compared with 47 percent for his opponent, city Controller Wendy Greuel, after tabulation of more than a third of ballots cast at polling stations on Tuesday and all mail-in ballots received as of last Friday.
The early results were roughly in line with an exit poll of voters conducted on Tuesday by Loyola Marymount University that predicted Garcetti would defeat Greuel by 8 percentage points.
“The results aren’t all in, but this is shaping up to be a great night,” Garcetti told cheering supporters at the Hollywood Palladium, a landmark concert hall, in a celebratory speech that stopped just short of declaring victory.
“Thank you to the voters of Los Angeles who voted for strong, independent leadership to lead this city forward,” he said, crediting a “people-powered campaign” for his apparent success.
But Greuel made clear she was not ready to concede defeat.
“No one said it was going to be easy or quick, but when you’re playing the championship of L.A. politics, sometimes the game goes into overtime,” she told her supporters at the Los Angeles Exchange nightclub downtown.
The two liberal Democrats, once allies on the City Council, spent record sums vying for the city’s highest office in a race shaped by dire fiscal constraints, the political clout of public employee unions and a largely disinterested electorate.
The pair emerged as the top two vote-getters in a non-partisan primary in March to replace Antonio Villaraigosa, a charismatic former labor organizer and two-term mayor who faced off against the city’s unions to implement budget cuts born of the economic downturn.