The candidates for mayor of Los Angeles wrapped up their campaigns Monday in the election’s first round with flurries of personal appearances intended to stimulate turnout by their supporters. They did so in the shadow of public and private polling that reinforced the essential dynamic of the race, one that hasn’t changed much in recent weeks: Those surveys show Controller Wendy Greuel and City Councilman Eric Garcetti at around 30% each, trailed by Councilwoman Jan Perry and lawyer Kevin James, each at about 15%. Those candidates in turn are trailed by businessman Emanuel Pleitez, who clocks in at about 5%.
Those are sharp enough breaks that the front-runners' campaigns already were looking toward the second round (although the campaign is commonly referred to as a primary, it really isn’t; if any candidate finishes with more than 50% of the vote this week, he or she wins the election outright, as Antonio Villaraigosa did last time and Richard Riordan did in his reelection as well). Still, it’s hard to imagine that either Greuel or Garcetti will run away with Tuesday's vote, so a second round seems likely.
Given that, each of the front-runners carries certain advantages. Supporters of James, for instance, are clustered among conservatives and located largely in the San Fernando Valley. Greuel’s campaign hopes those voters will migrate to her in a runoff. In addition, Greuel is angling for African American backers of Perry, a case she builds largely on her work for Mayor Tom Bradley years ago. And, of course, Greuel is hopeful that the prospect of electing Los Angeles’ first female mayor will inject energy into her effort in the second round.
Garcetti, meanwhile, can probably expect most of Pleitez’s support to gravitate to him in a runoff because he runs well among Latinos and young people, the mainstays of Pleitez’s effort so far. Moreover, some of Perry’s more liberal backers may find Garcetti an appealing second choice. Garcetti also has sharpened his attacks on Greuel in recent days, honing in particularly on the lavish sums that the union representing DWP workers has spent on her behalf; if he can succeed in convincing voters that she’s an instrument of that union, some of the electorate’s more conservative voters may warm to him as an alternative.
All of this is looking past Tuesday, and it’s not too late for an upset, particularly given that turnout is expected to be quite low, so any last-minute shifts could have an impact. If, for instance, Perry were to produce a surge in her base, it’s still possible she could nudge her way into a runoff.
For the candidates, then, that means one more day of vigorous appearances and determined appeals -- all intended to remind their supporters that this is far from over.