Democratic Assemblyman Paul Krekorian was the top vote-getter in Tuesday’s special election to fill a vacancy on the Los Angeles City Council and will now move on to a runoff election Dec. 8.

He will go head-to-head with former California Film Commission Chairwoman Christine Essel, who finished second in Tuesday’s election for L.A.’s 2nd Council District.

A Krekorian victory could temporarily leave the 43rd Assembly District, which covers Glendale and Burbank, without a representative.

While Krekorian rode to a strong performance on a wave of support for his legislative work promoting renewable energy and local film production, among other causes, the runoff election is expected to be fiercely competitive, observers say.

Of the 14,525 ballots cast in the district, which sweeps across the San Fernando Valley from Sherman Oaks to Tujunga, Krekorian won more than 4,929 voters, 34% of the field, compared with 4,104 for Essel, 28%, according to the Los Angeles city clerk.

That result was in a race with 10 candidates and in an election where 12% of the 123,750 registered voters cast ballots, leaving room for each of the runoff candidates to gain ground.

Essel and Krekorian were by far the top fundraisers in the initial race, but Essel’s total, which reached the city’s $330,000 threshold by Sept. 18, towered over Krekorian’s collections of $157,870, a figure that on its own was nearly double the next-best fundraiser’s total of $81,536, according to the latest figures published by the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.

The third-place fundraiser, who also finished third in the election with 1,871 votes, was Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education member Tamar Galatzan.

Although many expect Essel, a former Paramount Pictures executive, to rake in major contributions leading up to the runoff, Krekorian showed Tuesday he was able to not only withstand a barrage of mailers and commercials funded by the Essel camp, but capable of coming out on top.

His strong showing will likely increase interest in his Assembly seat, as Democratic and Republican hopefuls have already begun planning for campaigns should Krekorian win.

Assembly hopefuls will not be able to file for candidacy unless Krekorian wins and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declares a special election to fill his seat, according to the secretary of state.

Schwarzenegger would have to make his declaration within two weeks of the seat being vacated and would likely call for an election in early 2010.

Still, the race remains uncertain and may come down to which candidate is able to win over the support of voters who cast ballots for Galatzan or fourth-place finisher Mary Benson, both of whom were popular in the Sunland-Tujunga area of the council district, observers said.

Smyth congratulates stores for helping victims

Station fire victims need support, and some local businesses have stepped up to answer the call, said Republican Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, who at a news conference Thursday in Sylmar commended Home Depot for its outreach efforts.

Home Depot is offering “How-To” clinics Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Sylmar, where they will be giving 10% discounts to visitors affected by the wildfire and will advise them on how to best protect their homes in the future. Store clerks will also explain useful materials and garden installations.

“What they are doing is certainly above and beyond,” Smyth said. “Communities pull together when we have tragedies, and to have corporate friends step in as well helps ease the burden on families that are impacted.”

Home Depot donated more than $15,000 in products to local fire and relief efforts during recent Southern California wildfires and is among the series of corporations who have stepped up to offer assistance in response to recent blazes, Smyth said.

A major point Home Depot workers plan to emphasize is the importance of fire-resistant plants that can be used as a buffer between homes and oncoming flames, officials said.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich last week announced a toll-free hotline for homeowners affected by the fires seeking advice on engineering and other property-related issues.

The hotline, operated through the county Department of Public Works, is staffed by qualified personnel who can answer questions regarding erosion, mudflows and other issues, according to the announcement.

The toll-free hotline is (800) 214-4020.

And earlier this week, Republican Assemblyman Anthony Adams toured a La Crescenta neighborhood to ask residents and area officials about how they were affected by the Station fire and what they learned from being threatened by flames.

Adams joined local business and community leaders for the discussions.

Meeting clarifies the state’s sex offender laws

Republican Assemblyman Cameron Smyth held a town hall meeting Thursday in Tujunga to clarify the implications of the state’s restrictions on sex offenders living near schools.

Tujunga residents submitted multiple complaints to Smyth’s office since the start of the year related to eight sex offenders found to be living near schools, Smyth spokeswoman Chris Ward said.

Those offenders have since been moved, but residents remained confused about the state’s laws, he said.

Some offenders’ crimes are not related to pedophilia, so they have no restrictions on their proximity to schools, contrary to what residents believe, she said.

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