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Top Los Angeles mayor candidates to meet in runoff

This combo shows a Feb. 20, 2013 file photo of Los Angeles mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti speaking to media in Los Angeles, left, and undated image provided by the Wendy Greuel Campaign of mayoral candidate Greuel meeting with voters. The likely outcome in the heavily Democratic city will send two City Hall regulars, Eric Garcetti, 42, and Wendy Greuel, 51, to a May 21 runoff, since it’s unlikely any candidate will clear the majority needed to win outright Tuesday. (AP Photo)

This combo shows a Feb. 20, 2013 file photo of Los Angeles mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti speaking to media in Los Angeles, left, and undated image provided by the Wendy Greuel Campaign of mayoral candidate Greuel meeting with voters. The likely outcome in the heavily Democratic city will send two City Hall regulars, Eric Garcetti, 42, and Wendy Greuel, 51, to a May 21 runoff, since it’s unlikely any candidate will clear the majority needed to win outright Tuesday. (AP Photo)

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa smiles at media after voting Tuesday March 5, 2013 in Los Angeles. Los Angeles voters are going to the polls to choose a new mayor. Polls show a tight contest between Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel in the race to replace term-limited Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. An expected low turnout makes surprises more likely, boosting the chances of Democratic Councilwoman Jan Perry and Republican Kevin James, a former prosecutor and radio talk show host. If no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote, then the top two candidates will face each other in a May runoff. (AP Photo/Nick Ut )

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — With all precincts reporting in Los Angeles, two City Hall veterans earned the right to advance to a runoff election to replace outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

City Councilman Eric Garcetti and city Controller Wendy Greuel set up a contest of two Democrats who occupy a lot of similar positions in an election to determine who will lead the nation’s second most populous city that’s troubled by double-digit unemployment and a looming budget gap.

The election capped a lackluster primary campaign that was snubbed by most of the city’s 1.8 million voters. Turnout was scant.

The next mayor of the nation’s second largest city inherits a raft of problems: Crime is relatively low but City Hall is nearly broke, the airport is an embarrassment, freeways remain clogged and potholes, cracked sidewalks and untended trees infest many neighborhoods. Rising pension and health care costs for workers threaten dollars needed for libraries, street repairs and other services.

“The city’s ability to provide services that improve the quality of life of city residents has diminished,” city Administrative Officer Miguel Santana wrote in a report last month.

The five leading candidates in the nonpartisan contest made last-minute appeals during stops around the city, while unionized workers and other campaign volunteers tried to get voters to shake off indifference and go to the polls.

Other candidates included Democratic Councilwoman Jan Perry, former prosecutor Kevin James, a Republican, and Los Angeles County Democratic Chair Eric Bauman.

Angelenos are known to give local politics a collective shrug, and turnout failed to reach 30 percent in Villaraigosa’s hotly contested primary in 2005, when he was trying to become the first Hispanic mayor in more than a century. He was re-elected in 2009 with a meager 152,000 votes, in a city of nearly 4 million people.

The city appears headed for another first at City Hall. Greuel would become the first woman mayor, and Garcetti could become the first Jew elected to the post (but not the first to hold it in a temporary capacity). The two candidates also have roots in the city’s San Fernando Valley.

The leading candidates dueled mostly over pocketbook issues and City Hall insider politics — a looming deficit, 10.2 percent unemployment, the grip of municipal unions.

“The campaign itself hasn’t really gotten people’s blood going,” said longtime Democratic strategist Garry South. “It’s been small-bore stuff for the most part, and the average voter is saying, ‘What’s this got to do with me?'”

The Los Angeles mayor presides over a budget that exceeds $7 billion, but it is a comparatively weak office hemmed in by a powerful City Council. Unlike other big cities such as New York, the Los Angeles mayor cannot directly appoint the head of schools or police.

Voters also were picking a city attorney, city controller and about half the 15 members of the City Council, and deciding whether to increase the city’s sales tax a half-cent to 9.5 percent.

Associated Press


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