With 14% of precincts reporting election results Tuesday night, City Councilman Eric Garcetti took the lead in the mayor's race from Controller Wendy Greuel, 51% to 49%.
At 11 p.m., Garcetti led Greuel by about 3,500 votes. Of the city's 1,311 precincts, 183 had reported their totals. Early returns from absentee ballots had showed Greuel leading by two percentage points.
Polls closing Tuesday night marked the end of two years of campaigning for Greuel and Garcetti in their quests to replace Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
At a party at a nightclub in downtown Los Angeles, Greuel supporters had said her slim lead was the first step toward victory. Garcetti supporters at a party at the Hollywood Palladium said they were confident the race would turn their way.
After defeating six other candidates in the March primary, the two candidates continued to rely on large, unregulated spending by outside groups, a topic that also dominated the debates and advertisements that bombarded Angelenos in recent weeks.
At $33 million, the mayoral campaign was the most expensive in city history.
Garcetti repeatedly criticized Greuel for being too beholden to the unions, which contributed nearly $6 million toward getting her elected. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents Department of Water and Power employees, donated $2 million. The utility is unpopular among some voters for its high salaries, averaging more than $100,000 per employee, and for bills that inevitably climb higher during hot summer months.
Garcetti spent three terms representing a district that includes Hollywood and Silver Lake.
As city budget deficits spiraled into the hundreds of millions of dollars, Garcetti—then the council president—was at the center of negotiations to balance the books. He helped persuade his council colleagues to agree to cutbacks, including reducing the city workforce, raising the retirement age for future civilian workers from 55 to 65 and increasing the amount employees pay toward pensions and healthcare.
Before she was elected controller, Greuel, 51, represented parts of the San Fernando Valley on the council for eight years.
She began her political career working in Mayor Tom Bradley’s office, worked for the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration and served as a political operative at DreamWorks SKG.
In the primary, Greuel and Garcetti defeated three serious but underfunded contenders — Republican radio host and attorney Kevin James, Councilwoman Jan Perry and technology executive Emanuel Pleitez. All three endorsed Garcetti.
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