Former Police Chief Bernard C. Parks won his bid to join the Los Angeles City Council Tuesday night, while former Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa defeated Councilman Nick Pacheco in their hard-fought race to represent the Eastside council district.
"They shot some of the ugliest ads and attacks the city has seen," Villaraigosa told supporters about 11 p.m. "I will say this: I am proud of my wife and my family and my friends who stand up here. It is because of them that we were victorious today."
With voter turnout citywide nearing a record low, council aide Deron Williams and former legislative deputy Martin Ludlow appeared headed to a runoff in the mid-city's crowded 10th District race. A runoff also appeared likely in the San Fernando Valley's 12th District, where council aide Greig Smith, school board member Julie Korenstein and former Assemblywoman Paula Boland were the top vote-getters.
Meanwhile, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan suffered a setback in his efforts to maintain influence over the makeup of the Los Angeles school board. Board President Caprice Young, who was supported by Riordan and billionaire Eli Broad, was trailing former teacher Jon Lauritzen; one other Riordan-backed incumbent school board member, Genethia Hudley-Hayes, was locked in a tight race.
Teachers union president John Perez was happy with early results. "There is a group headed by Eli Broad and Dick Riordan that has tried to buy the school board. I think there are people who say the school board is not for sale. I think that came out loud and clear," he said.
The council's new makeup, partly sealed by Tuesday's returns but with some races still to be decided in runoffs on May 20, will represent a significant shift at City Hall. New representatives will replace three of the council's senior members, forced from office by term limits, and Parks, who served for more than 30 years at the LAPD, will return to public life. Those council members take on powerful positions: Each of the 15 council members oversees a district of more than 240,000 residents, bigger than most congressional seats.
Bouncing back from his forced departure from the LAPD a year ago, Parks addressed supporters from his South Los Angeles district just before 10 p.m., surrounded by family members, including his wife, whom he credited for his run.
"The campaign showed that not one person can tell you what you can do with your future," Parks said, in an apparent reference to Mayor James K. Hahn's refusal to back him for a second term as chief.
In the 10th District, Williams said the returns signaled the voters' confidence in his work as a council field deputy.
"Obviously, they believed in me for the 14 years I served the district," he said. "I want to continue to work with them and serve them as elected representative, not a selected representative."
Meanwhile, supporters at Ludlow's La Cienega Boulevard headquarters began dancing to funk music as returns showed him in second place.
The May 20 runoff "is going to give voters a real clear choice," Ludlow said. "Do they want the politics of the past or a new vision for the future?"
In other races, 4th District Councilman Tom LaBonge defeated film producer Derek Milosavljevic. A year after losing a council bid in a special election, former Assemblyman Tony Cardenas beat businessman Jose Roy Garcia in the 6th District. Councilwoman Wendy Greuel ran unopposed in the 2nd District.
Despite the fierce competition in some campaigns, voter turnout was anemic. City officials said the number of ballots cast would be close to the previous record low for a spring council election -- 14.9% in April 1987.
Tuesday's city election marked the final blow of local term limits, as voters cast ballots to replace the last round of veteran city officials. When they finish their terms June 30, outgoing council members Hal Bernson, Nate Holden and Ruth Galanter will take with them 56 years of cumulative council experience. The most senior member of the new council will be Cindy Miscikowski, who took office in 1997.
There were only seven City Council seats on the ballot, but the results could have serious implications for the Hahn administration. The mayor will probably have to contend with an outspoken rival in Parks, who had a falling out with Hahn when the mayor opposed the former police chief's reappointment last year. Villaraigosa, who lost the mayor's race to Hahn in 2001, could present another political challenger.
"I don't think it's going to be a problem at all," Hahn said in a phone interview Tuesday night from his San Pedro home. "I'm not somebody who harbors any grudges, and I certainly hope that holds true for anybody elected to the City Council."
"I have always put the past aside, and I am not concerned with the burdens other carry," he said. "I buried the hatchet a long time ago."
In all, the seven City Council races generated more than $5 million in spending by the candidates and outside groups hoping to influence the outcomes.
The Eastside race between Pacheco and Villaraigosa was the most costly of the matchups. Two years after losing the mayor's office to Hahn, the former Assembly speaker challenged the incumbent 14th District councilman, arguing that he would provide better leadership for the area.
Pacheco fought back, saying he has improved services, and accused Villaraigosa of having a weak record on public safety.
A third candidate, Paul Gonzales, a boxer who won a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics, tried to portray himself as most in touch with the community.
Organized labor poured money into the race on behalf of the top two contenders, with the County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, backing Villaraigosa, and the city employees union, along with police and firefighters, lining up behind Pacheco. The Morongo Band of Mission Indians, a tribe based in Riverside County, also jumped in, financing glossy mailers attacking Villaraigosa's voting record on public safety. The former assemblyman angered Native American tribes when he supported restrictions on Las Vegas-style gambling on reservations.
Expenditures by groups independent of the candidates' campaigns in the 14th District reached more than $526,000 by Tuesday -- breaking the record for the total spent by outside groups in all the 2001 City Council races.
In South Los Angeles, four lesser-known candidates struggled to compete with Parks for the 8th District seat vacated by Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas when he was elected to the state Assembly in November. The former police chief stumped hard for the office, promising to attract more jobs and youth programs to the area.
His opponents accused Parks of running on a vendetta to get back at Hahn. Parks said he wanted the job simply to represent the community.
In the mid-city's 10th Council District, six candidates, including some political veterans, fought over the seat being vacated by Holden.
The outgoing councilman campaigned hard for Williams, his former chief field deputy, who in turn was criticized by his opponents as a continuation of what they characterized as Holden's neglectful attitude toward the district.
The leading fund-raiser in the race was Ludlow, a former top aide to Villaraigosa and Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson and former political director of the County Federation of Labor.
Term limits also created a wide-open contest in the northwest San Fernando Valley's 12th Council District, where Bernson was prevented by term limits from seeking reelection. The district has the highest percentage of Republican voters of any Council district in the city.
Bernson endorsed Smith, his former chief of staff. Smith raised $403,000 in contributions and city matching funds, more than the combined money of the next three leading fund-raisers: school board member Korenstein, former state Assemblywoman Boland and home builder Robert Vinson.
Times staff writers Daren Briscoe, Tina Daunt, Jessica Garrison and Kurt Streeter contributed to this report.