L.A. City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa and incumbent Mayor James Hahn were the top two vote getters in the mayoral primary, setting the stage for a rematch of their 2001 runoff contest.
Villaraigosa raked in 33.1 percent of the vote. Hahn was second with 23.7 percent, to squeak into the May 17 runoff. Former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg narrowly missed the cut with 22.2 percent, about 5,800 votes behind Hahn.
Hertzberg conceded defeat Wednesday morning, saying he didn't believe he could make up the gap with about 24,000 uncounted absentee votes and provisional ballots outstanding. His role now turns into power broker; his endorsement could help tip the scales in the runoff toward either remaining candidate.
Hertzberg said he would take a couple days to decide which remaining candidate to endorse, if any. Villaraigosa is a former close frend and political ally; the two have been cordial to each other on the campaign trail but there is still residue left from a falling-out. Hertzberg shares a more natural constituency with Hahn, who captured support from voters in the San Fernando Valley in his first mayoral run.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Hahn said he was willing to sit down and talk with Hertzberg, despite the personal barbs the two exchanged during the primary campaign. All that was in the past, Hahn said: "This isn't personal at all. I told Bob last night that he ran a great campaign."
A Hertzberg endorsement could help Hahn woo back many Valley voters upset with his campaign against secession. "Every day is a new day," Hahn said when asked about whether Valley voters still harbored resentment towards him.
At his own campaign event, Villaraigosa said he will give Hertzberg, fourth-place finisher and Councilman Bernard Parks and State Sen. Richard Alarc & #243;n, who finished far behind the others, "some breathing room" before seeking out their endorsements.
Both sides appeared to be bracing for the possibility of a highly negative runoff campaign.
Hahn will air an intense television ad campaign that both stresses his record and draws "comparisons" between him and Villaraigosa, said Hahn campaign consultant Kam Kuwata.
Hahn declined to rule out using attack ads like the one his campaign used to devastating effect against Villaraigosa four years ago. That ad focused on Villaraigosa's letter to then-President Bill Clinton seeking a pardon for a convicted drug dealer. "This is going to be a dynamic campaign and I don't know what the ads will be," he said.
Hahn said he will focus on what he says is a major difference between himself and Villaraigosa: his drive to put before voters a half-cent sales tax increase to fund the hiring of more police officers. Villaraigosa voted against the half-cent sales tax increase when it came before the City Council last month, saying he did not believe two-thirds of L.A. city voters would approve it.
Villaraigosa, speaking to the media during a campaign stop at North Hollywood High School, said Hahn's failure to get three out of every four votes cast Tuesday shows the city of Los Angeles wants a change in leadership.
"Yesterday was an indictment of the Hahn administration," said Villaraigosa. "The city said they want a fresh start."
Villaraigosa said he will focus the next 10 weeks on his own message but said he is ready to respond to negative campaigning, should it come from the Hahn camp. And he lost no time in referring to the ongoing criminal probes of contracting practices at City Hall, which have drawn in some of Hahn's staffers and appointees. Villaraigosa said voters are "tired of scandals" and want a mayor who will solve their problems, not his own.
In the primary, Parks, the former L.A. police chief, drew 13.4 percent of the vote to 3.6 percent for Alarc & #243;n, whose 3.6 percent put him only slightly ahead of Republican candidate Walter Moore, who had 2.8 percent of the vote.
The hotly contested 11th Council District on L.A.'s Westside will also see a runoff. Former cable television executive and talk show host Bill Rosendahl led with 44.7 percent of the vote; he will face community activist Flora Gil Krisiloff, who pulled in 41.5 percent. Westchester attorney and city commissioner Angela Reddock was a distant third with 13.8 percent, enough to force the runoff.
In other city races, L.A. City Controller Laura Chick and L.A. City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo coasted to easy re-election victories. Incumbent City Council members Ed Reyes, Dennis Zine, Jack Weiss and Jan Perry also posted wide victory margins, while Councilmembers Eric Garcetti and Janice Hahn ran unopposed.
Turnout was light at an estimated 26 percent, well below the official city projection of 35 percent to 40 percent and well below previous primary turnouts. Absentee and provisional ballots could raise the final turnout figure to 27.8 percent..
Two L.A. city charter reform measures were passing by wide margins. One would put the port police in the city's fire and police pension plan. The other is related to changes in that pension plan.
Meanwhile, in Beverly Hills, a controversial proposed $200 million luxury hotel project survived a referendum vote with about 54 percent support in unofficial returns. However, opponents of the proposed Montage Hotel and public gardens project have said they may sue to block the project.
In Redondo Beach, unofficial election returns showed voters supporting an increase in the city's hotel bed tax, while a move to increase the city's business license tax appeared headed for defeat. In an advisory vote, Redondo Beach voters favored turning a waterfront power plant site owned by AES Corp. into a park and appeared to reject a mixed-use development concept for the 76-acre site.
In Rosemead, organized labor put up three candidates to challenge City Council members who approved construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter last year. Two of the three labor-backed candidates won, but the council majority remains supportive of Wal-Mart.
Staff reporters James Nash, Eric Berkowitz and Aarthi Sivaraman contributed to this story.
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