Voters in Los Angeles on Tuesday selected City Councilor Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel, both Democrats, to advance to a May 21 mayoral runoff.
In an eight-way open primary, Garcetti secured 33 percent of the vote, while Greuel totaled 29 percent. Attorney and radio broadcaster Kevin James, the lone Republican in the race, finished third, with 16 percent of the vote. James edged City Councilor Jan Perry, who was fourth, by less than half a percentage point. Former technology executive Emanuel Pleitez was last among the major candidates, tallying just 4 percent of the ballots.
In a city with over 1.8 million registered voters, just 292,760 ballots were cast, a paltry turnout of 16 percent. That marked a decline from the 18-percent turnout in the 2009 primary, when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa successfully avoided a runoff in his reelection campaign. In the last open-seat primary, in 2001, just over a third of registered Angelenos voted.
Garcetti and Greuel were the perceived frontrunners throughout the race, and they will now look to attract those voters who supported their rivals in the primary. Additionally, the candidates may be more willing to offer detailed policy prescriptions on issues such as the municipal budget; they were criticized during the primary for the vagueness of their plans.
In a pre-election interview with Hotline On Call, USC's Dan Schnur said of Greuel and Garcetti, "The contrast between them is much less based on ideology and policy than in their approach to the job." Garcetti presents himself as "a visionary," while Greuel "presents herself as someone willing to make the tough decisions."
Asked ahead of the vote whether she would reach out to rivals if she advanced to the runoff, Greuel said "I think you always reach out to the other candidates who you may not have agreed with. Ultimately we've all invested a lot into the future of the city." For his part, Garcetti said "the nice thing about a campaign is that you cross-pollinate" and may incorporate ideas initally advanced by another candidate.
The outcome of the runoff will depend largely on which candidate can best advance a message that resonates with voters who did not back them in the primary -- or those who didn't vote at all.