The Race Time Forgot

So with virtually no national attention (and I plead guilty to ignoring it myself), America’s second-largest city held a competitive mayor’s election (actually, a runoff election) yesterday, and a booming 19% of Los Angeles’ registered voters turned out to elect city councilman Eric Garcetti over city controller Wendy Greuel by a 54-46 margin.

Both candidates were more or less standard-brand center-left Democrats who had relatively broad bases of support (Greueul won perhaps the highest-profile endorsements, from Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer, while Garcetti was endorsed by Howard Dean and Cory Booker). Both candidates also had plenty of money (a total of $33 million was spent on the race). But it was Greuel’s close association with the city employee unions that seemed to be the key issue in the runoff, helping Garcetti (who was endorsed by the main teachers’ union) outpace his rival significantly in Republican areas of the city. Greuel tried to make Garcetti’s endorsement by Republican Kevin James, who finished third in the first round of voting, an issue in the runoff, but that may have just helped Garcetti look like the lesser-of-evils to conservatives.

Garcetti becomes LA’s first Jewish mayor (Greuel would have been the first woman to serve in that office) and will probably spend his first days in office trying to heal intra-Democratic wounds, and perhaps wondering what sort of mandate he actually has after an election in which four-fifths of voters didn’t bother to show up.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.