Eric Garcetti Leads Battle To Become First Jewish Mayor of Los Angeles

Fends Off Wendy Greuel in Bitter and Expensive Race

Big Lead: Eric Garcetti greets supporters after opening up a big lead in his race to become the first Jewish mayor of Los Angeles.
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Big Lead: Eric Garcetti greets supporters after opening up a big lead in his race to become the first Jewish mayor of Los Angeles.

By Reuters

Published May 22, 2013.
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Turnout for the election, marked by a heavy dose of negative ads and two candidates seen as largely indistinguishable in their positions, was expected to be low, with perhaps fewer than 25 percent of registered voters casting ballots.

Greuel, 51, was seeking to be the first woman elected Los Angeles mayor, and Garcetti, 42, the first Jew. His mother is Jewish, and he was raised as Jewish.

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political analyst with the USC Price School of Public Policy, said the biggest contrast between Greuel and Garcetti seemed to lie in their personal styles.

“I characterize this race as Valley girl vs. urban hipster,” she said, referring to the city’s heavily suburban San Fernando Valley region seen as Greuel’s political stronghold.

FISCAL WOES

Garcetti, who earned a reputation as a consensus builder, served as council president from 2006 to 2011 and has called attention to his record on environmental initiatives and his role in the urban revival of once-blighted areas in Hollywood.

A onetime Rhodes scholar, he is the son of former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, who was the city’s top prosecutor during the murder trial of O.J. Simpson in the 1990s. The elder Garcetti joined his son on stage for his speech at the Palladium.

Greuel, touting her current role as a city controller in uncovering waste and fraud, drew a high-profile endorsement from former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who she worked for in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In her former council post she highlighted her dedication to street repairs in her suburban district and embraced the nickname “Pothole Queen.”

The new mayor will inherit a city government whose fiscal well-being has been crippled by dwindling tax collections wrought by the housing collapse and prolonged recession of recent years, along with rising public sector wages, pension obligations and other unfunded liabilities.

California’s largest metropolis has a projected budget deficit set to top $1 billion cumulatively over the next four years and both Garcetti and Greuel have vowed to slash city business taxes to help spur economic growth.

Both said they would seek to renegotiate a five-year, 25 percent pay increase they supported in 2007 for most of the city’s municipal workers, which the city’s powerful public employee unions are sure to resist.

The influence of organized labor became a key issue during the race, with Garcetti questioning Greuel’s ability to wring concessions from public employee unions after they contributed heavily to her campaign.

Garcetti led in campaign spending overall, with $9.4 million in expenditures, compared with $8.9 million for Greuel, according to City Ethics Commission figures. Much of that money has gone on a slew of negative television ads from both sides.


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