The countdown to today's city election in Los Angeles was marked by a flurry of last-minute spending and a fusillade of charges in the races for city attorney and controller as union representatives made a final push to get out the vote for a $3-billion solar energy initiative backed by the mayor.
Voters will also decide whether to give Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa a second term, and 33 other cities in Los Angeles County will sort though candidates and issues in the spring primary election.
Most of the attention, however, has focused on the city of Los Angeles, where voters will cast ballots for two contested school board seats, five ballot measures and eight City Council races -- though only the Westside seat being vacated by city attorney candidate Jack Weiss is viewed as competitive.
Proponents of the solar proposal known as Measure B -- who argue that the measure would create jobs while generating enough solar energy to power 100,000 households, are leading a voter turnout drive in campaign's final hours, hoping that the surge in new voter interest in last year's presidential election will bolster their chances.
The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which has joined with environmental groups and the mayor in support of the measure, plans to help get out the vote.
The measure's opponents say it will lead to higher electrical rates and favor the Department of Water and Power employees' union over construction trade workers.
In previous years, election officials have made turnout predictions based on the number of absentee ballots cast. But the city's elections division chief Arleen P. Taylor said so many residents are registered to vote by mail that "it's no longer a good indication of returns" and that she wasn't making any predictions.
As of Saturday, the election division had received fewer than a third of the vote-by-mail ballots issued -- 84,281 -- meaning about 5.3% of the city's nearly 1.6-million registered voters had already cast their votes.
In the far more heated 2005 city primary -- when Villaraigosa challenged then-Mayor James K. Hahn -- about 95,077 voters had sent in ballots by the Saturday before the election.
The one section of Los Angeles that could have a disproportionate influence on the election is the 5th Council District, where six candidates are running for the seat being vacated by Weiss, a former federal prosecutor. The district has far more voters than any other.
In the city attorney's race, Weiss has sparred with defense attorney Carmen Trutanich over their experience as lawyers, while Trutanich has questioned the breadth of experience of deputy City Atty. Michael Amerian.
In the controller's race, Councilwoman Wendy Greuel made a last-minute $110,000 contribution to her campaign against electrical engineer Nick Patsaouras. The campaign for the Los Angeles Board of Education was dominated by money from the teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, which gave an edge to teacher Steve Zimmer in his race against teacher Mike Stryer to represent the Westside-centered District 4.