Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn on Tuesday became the first sitting L.A. mayor to lose a re-election bid since Tom Bradley ousted Sam Yorty 32 years ago, losing to city Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa in a lopsided vote.
Hahn's defeat also marks the first time an incumbent mayor was ousted after only one term since 1933, when Frank Shaw defeated John Porter. It also ends Hahn's is remarkable string of six citywide election victories: one for the city controller post, four for city attorney and the last one for mayor in 2001.
Tuesday's rebuke by voters is also the first time a member of the politically active Hahn family has lost a bid for political office in more than 50 years. Hahn's father, the legendary Kenneth Hahn, won election 10 times to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors before retiring in 1992; Hahn's sister Janice was just re-elected to a second term on the L.A. City Council. Now Hahn must ponder life outside elected office for the first time in 24 years.
Hahn inherited his father's knack for pothole politics but not his glad-handing style. Detractors often fault Hahn's style as passive and uninspiring.
The mayor answered critics by saying Los Angeles has enough movie stars and that people should recognize his efforts to revitalize the Los Angeles Police Department, fight off secession drives and improve basic city services.
By the traditional measurements of city politics, Hahn should have had little trouble winning reelection. Crime is down and the local economy is showing relative strength, with several parts of the city most notably downtown and Hollywood in the midst of development booms.
But Hahn had a difficult time galvanizing the electorate, despite the power of incumbency and the support of organized labor. His critics said he was disengaged and lacked vision and passion a perception fed by investigations under way into the city's contracting practices.
In the days before the election, Hahn's approval rating had sunk to 38 percent. He alienated voters among the two bases crucial to his 2001 victory: blacks in South L.A. and conservative-leaning white voters in the San Fernando Valley.
In February 2002, he chose not to seek renewal of police chief Bernard Parks' contract, prompting an outcry from the African American leaders. Although Parks' successor, William Bratton, has proven popular, the resentment lingers: After winning 80 percent of the black vote in 2001, Hahn lost nearly every major endorsement among African American political and civic leaders.
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