Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti made history in his romp to reelection on Tuesday: His 81% share of the vote was higher than any of his predecessors had won in more than a century.
But Tuesday's election — once the ballot count is complete — is likely to break another record for low voter turnout in an L.A. mayor's race, according to Dean Logan, the Los Angeles County registrar of voters.
So despite his impressive vote share, it appears that Garcetti won with fewer votes – just over 202,000 in the initial tally – than at least a half dozen L.A. mayors: James K. Hahn, Richard Riordan, Tom Bradley, Sam Yorty, Norris Poulson and Fletcher Bowron.
Logan expects the final turnout will fall 1 or 2 percentage points below the record low of 17.9% of registered voters in 2009, when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa won reelection.
"That would be my best back-of-the-napkin estimate," Logan said.
Tens of thousands of ballots have not yet been tallied, so Garcetti's vote will inevitably climb by the time the results are certified at the end of the month.
Still uncounted are provisional ballots cast by voters whose eligibility needs to be verified; mail ballots that were turned into polling places on election day; and mail ballots postmarked by the Tuesday deadline but received later.
It's already clear, however, that turnout was dismal, a reflection of the city's sometimes apolitical nature, a lackluster campaign, and perhaps some voter exhaustion from last year's circus of a presidential election.
Starting in 2020, Los Angeles elections will be consolidated with state and federal elections, a shift aimed at boosting turnout.
For now, Garcetti has won less than half the nearly 432,000 votes that Bowron won in 1950. The city's current population of nearly 4 million is double what it was in the Bowron era.
Garcetti's 81% share of the vote, in a race against 10 largely unknown rivals, easily broke the record of 68% set by Bradley in his 1985 run for reelection.
"It was certainly higher than I expected," Garcetti told reporters Wednesday morning outside a bagel shop in Larchmont.
It also gave Garcetti a new edge in his budding rivalry with Villaraigosa, who won just 56% of the vote in his 2009 race against a similarly weak field of challengers.
Villaraigosa is now running for governor, and Garcetti's refusal to rule out joining the race poses a threat to his candidacy since both would compete for the same base of Southern California voters.
Garcetti far surpassed the 152,613 votes that Villaraigosa won in 2009. But Garcetti will be hard pressed to reach the 289,116 votes that Villaraigosa drew in 2005, when he ousted Hahn.
Times staff writer Dakota Smith contributed to this report.