Either City Controller Wendy Greuel or Councilman Eric Garcetti will make history as the next mayor of Los Angeles: Greuel would be the city's first female mayor, while Garcetti would be the city's first Jewish mayor.
After two years of campaigning bolstered by record contributions, the mayoral race between City Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel comes to a close Tuesday as voters take to the polls.
The winner of the run-off election to replace outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will give the city of Los Angeles either its first female or first Jewish mayor—a leader who will inherit a city still struggling to pull itself from an extended fiscal slump.
In their sprint to the finish line, both Democratic contenders with similar voting records tried to differentiate themselves from each other in down-to-the-wire pitches to undecided voters.
“If you want an independent mayor with proven results, somebody who’s delivered neighborhood turnaround, who’s balanced budgets, I’m your guy," said Garcetti, who was leading by 7 percentage points in the most recent USC Price/Los Angeles Time poll released Friday.
Greuel, who has racked up endorsements from high profile figures, including former President Bill Clinton and Magic Johnson, emphasized her experience as the city government's top critic for the last three years.
“My history has been one of stepping up to the plate and being that tough fiscal watchdog,” she said. “My history has been for standing up for the taxpayers of L.A. and that’s what I’m going to do as mayor.”
The contest to succeed Villaraigosa, who leaves office at the end of June with high marks from his constituents, broke spending records Saturday as outside contributions topped $33 million.
The candidates have received rival endorsements—Greuel from the L.A. Chamber of Commerce, the Daily News and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer; Garcetti from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, the L.A. Times and Newark Mayor Cory Booker—but the money and attention the race has garnered is not expected to be matched by voter turnout.
When the two faced off in March for a primary contest, which failed to give either the majority needed for an outright victory, only 21 percent of the city’s registered voters cast a ballot in the race.
Leading up to Tuesday's runoff election, both candidates have made more aggressive attempts to woo Latinos, which represent nearly half of the city's population and roughly a third of eligible voters.
Garcetti, a Spanish-speaker who leads among the coveted demographic, according to recent polls, has talked about his paternal grandparents' emigration from Mexico. Greuel, who has endorsements from prominent Latino leaders, has stumped before Spanish-speaking crowds.
"The candidates are reaching out to the Latino community because they know, with ... a few hundred votes, they can change the entire makeup of the city," Elisa Sequeira, the head of civic engagement for California's National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials told NBC 4 LA.
Just 400,000 of the city's 1.8 million registered voters are expected to cast ballots in the election Tuesday. A smaller voter pool, however, does give some advantages to those who do participate.
“These smaller elections, when you vote for city council, mayor, you have more say. Your vote counts more and as an individual, it affects us more,” web designer Mary Jane Zorick told NBC 4 LA.