With more than half of precincts reporting, City Councilman Eric Garcetti's lead over mayoral opponent Wendy Greuel widened to 8 points in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
As of 1 a.m. PDT Wednesday, Garcetti led Greuel 54% to 46% in the race to replace termed-out mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. As the first election returns came in earlier in the night, mainly from mail-in ballots, Greuel led the race. Within hours, it was a dead heat.
Tuesday's election marked the end of two years of campaigning for Greuel and Garcetti. Both criss-crossed the city on their last day on the campaign trail in a last-ditch attempt to encourage voters in a city that has had historically low voter turnout.
At an election-night party at the Hollywood Paladium on Tuesday, Garcetti took the stage to thank Greuel for her service and to suggest that the race was tipping in his favor.
"I’m ready to fight for L.A.’s future," Garcetti told more than 1,000 people who fanned out across the theater under crystal chandeliers and blue lights. "Tonight is just the beginning. Our work has just begun. Tomorrow we will roll up our sleeves and we will get to work rebuilding a great Los Angeles."
He thanked his volunteers, noting that the "people-powered campaign ... had a commitment to let the voters of Los Angeles choose the next mayor, not any power brokers.”
After pushing past six other candidates in the March primary, Garcetti and Greuel leaned on large, unregulated spending by outside groups. Garcetti repeatedly criticized Greuel for the nearly $6 million that outside groups, including the union for Department of Water and Power workers, contributed to her campaign. The flood of money and advertising from those groups largely went toward tearing down the two contenders, alienating many Angelenos who hadn't already been left cold.
Greuel, speaking during her campaign party at a downtown Los Angeles nightclub, said the election was too close to call Tuesday night. She said she was feeling "déjà vu" from her first race for City Council, which she won by 225 votes.
"For those peddling predictions or projections tonight, you’d be wise to keep your powder dry, and your eyes on the city clerk’s website," Greuel said.
Greuel choked up and her voice cracked as she thanked her husband Dean and her 9-year-old son Thomas, who were with her on stage.
"Thomas and Dean have kept me connected to the world throughout this process, and they reminded me on many occasions, that no matter what I’ve gone through in the course of this campaign, it pales in comparison to the hardships that so many Angelenos go through every day," she said.
Greuel turned to Thomas, and noted that he was awake at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday to hang door hangers.
"Thank you, Thomas, for being the beacon that has guided me through often the troubled waters of this campaign. Being a mom, a city controller and a candidate is challenging, but in the end I did it all for you," she said. "Because I want you and all of the children of Los Angeles to grow up in a better, cleaner and safer Los Angeles."
The results reported on the city clerk's website might not be final for several weeks. Even after all precincts report their results, there are thousands more mail-in ballots to be counted and verified, a process that can take up to three weeks.
In the March primary election, the process took the full 21 days allowed by City Charter, although the final tally did not differ substantially from election night. Garcetti led Greuel by 3.7% on March 5 and stretched that to 4.1% after the final 82,000 votes had been counted.
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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