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Villaraigosa is elected first Hispanic mayor of Los Angeles since 1872


LOS ANGELES - The last time this happened there were horse carts in the streets rather than BMWs, the city had fewer than 6,000 people rather than more than 3 million and Ulysses S. Grant was president.

For the first time in 133 years, the nation's second-largest city will have a Hispanic mayor.

In a landslide victory, Angelenos elected City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa as mayor of this increasingly Hispanic-dominated city - Hispanics make up 47 percent of the population.

Addressing supporters just before midnight Tuesday at a downtown office building, Villaraigosa, 52, said, "Our goal is to bring this city together."

"It doesn't matter whether you grew up on the [mainly Hispanic] east side, or the west side, whether you're from [mainly black] South Los Angeles or [mainly white] Sylmar," he said. "We are all Angelenos, and we all have a difference to make."

Villaraigosa defeated one-term Mayor James K. Hahn, 59 percent to 41 percent. It was the first time since 1872 that Los Angeles - then just a few years from having been under Mexican control - has had a Hispanic mayor.

Turnout, according to the city clerk's office, was 30.5 percent.

His election put Villaraigosa on the national political map, a fact not lost on the Democratic Party. During the final weeks of the campaign, Sen. John Kerry stumped for Villaraigosa in Los Angeles.

Both the mayor-elect and Hahn, 54, are Democrats.

Much of Villaraigosa's support came in the form of a rejection of Hahn, who defeated Villaraigosa four years ago.

Blacks, who helped Hahn win in 2001, were angered over the mayor's decision not to rehire African-American Police Chief Bernard Parks. Many whites from the San Fernando Valley turned against Hahn after he worked hard to defeat an effort by the valley to secede from the city of Los Angeles.

Hahn conceded that he had failed to promote the positive elements of his tenure as mayor, such as reduced crime rates and an improved economic climate. He even confessed that as a low-key politician he suffered from "charisma deficit disorder."

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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