The outcome of the election, in one of the lowest turnouts on record, signaled a defeat for labor unions here, which had spent tremendous time and effort to elect Wendy Greuel, the city controller.
|NEW MAYOR CELEBRATES (Monica Almeida NY Times)|
LOS ANGELES-Despite the city’s most powerful unions’ having spent millions on behalf of his opponent, City Councilman Eric Garcetti handily won his bid to become the mayor of Los Angeles on Tuesday, receiving 54 percent of the vote.
“This election was never for sale,” Mr. Garcetti said in a news conference Wednesday afternoon. “People want you to be independent.”
Mr. Garcetti and Ms. Greuel have spent years in City Hall, and they portrayed themselves as moderate Democrats, though the race was nonpartisan. Ms. Greuel won the backing of the city’s most influential unions, but Mr. Garcetti turned that into a liability, saying it would prevent her from securing concessions, particularly on pensions.
The race generated a record $33 million in spending, including outside money from political action committees. Those groups, including the union that represents workers from the Department of Water and Power, spent more than $3 million supporting Ms. Greuel.
The city still faces a roughly $100 million budget gap and must contend with growing public pension liabilities. Mr. Garcetti also faces a host of more prosaic problems, like potholes and tattered streets, something he acknowledged and even seemed to embrace on Wednesday.
“We have to fix basic things, not just patch potholes but pave the streets,” he said. But with the highest unemployment rate among large cities, Mr. Garcetti said his top priority would be creating jobs. “We don’t want to just have unemployed people going back to work, but we want to make sure they have a career path.”
Mr. Garcetti, 42, will become the city’s youngest top official in modern history and the first elected Jewish mayor.
As the results trickled in Tuesday night, Mr. Garcetti confidently told hundreds of supporters at a Hollywood nightclub that the city had entrusted him with its leadership and that he would not let Angelenos down. “Los Angeles is ready to put the recession in the rearview mirror and become the city of opportunity that I grew up in once again,” he said. “It’s time for Los Angeles not just to be a big city, but a great city once again. Whether you’re down and out or whether you’re at the top, we all believe one thing: that L.A. is worth fighting for.”
Ms. Greuel, who did not concede the race until Wednesday morning, used part of her speech on Tuesday night to defend her support from labor unions. “You know, a lot of people were telling me I needed to throw working people under the bus to win this race, but that was never going to happen under my watch,” she said.
At a news conference at her campaign office Wednesday, Ms. Greuel, who turns 52 on Thursday and who was vying to become the city’s first female mayor, added, “I may not have been able to break the glass ceiling, but we sure made a crack in it.”
Initial tallies from the city clerk showed that turnout was about 20 percent, one of the lowest rates on record for a runoff election. Mr. Garcetti, who represented Hollywood and the surrounding areas on the Council for the last 12 years, will take office on July 1.
Mr. Garcetti is the son of Gil Garcetti, who as district attorney prosecuted O. J. Simpson, and the grandson of Mexican immigrants who trace their roots to Italy; Mr. Garcetti speaks Spanish and used it frequently during the campaign.
Throughout the nearly two-year campaign, Mr. Garcetti did little to differentiate himself from Ms. Greuel. A survey from Loyola Marymount University of voters leaving the polls showed that Mr. Garcetti received far more support from Republicans than did Ms. Greuel, who had the support of the Chamber of Commerce and former President Bill Clinton. While Ms. Greuel did well in South Los Angeles, Mr. Garcetti won large parts of the urban center of the city and part of the suburban San Fernando Valley.
A ballot measure limiting the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city and raising taxes on purchases also passed.