After emerging victorious from a hard-fought and costly campaign, mayor-elect Eric Garcetti thanked voters Wednesday for propelling him into office and said he was prepared to take on the city’s major issues, which will include a looming budget deficit and a battle over employee pensions.
“We have our challenges before us as a city, big challenges,” he said.
“But there’s no challenge in Los Angeles that cannot be met by the immense wellspring of talent and people and passion that’s here in Los Angeles. Those folks who believe in Los Angeles, the people who are the most diverse, committed, creative human beings ever assembled on the face of the Earth — together we will make this not just a big city, but a great city once again.”
With all precincts reporting, Garcetti had 54 percent of the vote, compared to 46 percent for City Controller Wendy Greuel.
Greuel called Garcetti about 2 a.m. Wednesday to concede the race, later congratulating her opponent for a hard-fought race at her Van Nuys campaign office Wednesday morning.
“After going toe-to-toe with him as political opponents for two years now … you really get to know a person,” she said.
Garcetti “cares deeply” about the city, she said, and “will work tirelessly to be the strong and innovative leader we need at this critical moment in our history.”
She touched on the historical significance of her bid for mayor, saying that while she failed to “break through the glass ceiling last night” she put enough of a “crack in it” that the “next woman candidate in my shoes will crash right through it.”
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called Garcetti “a true leader” that he trusted “to guide our city into its bright future.
“I know I am leaving Los Angeles in good hands,” he said in a statement.
Late Tuesday, while votes were still being tallied, Garcetti delivered what was clearly a victory speech, though he never used the word “victory.”
“Well, the results aren’t all in, but this is shaping up to be a great night,” Garcetti told supporters at the Hollywood Palladium. “So let me start by saying thank you. Thank you to the thousands of you who volunteered for this campaign and thank you to the voters of L.A. who tonight voted for strong independent leadership to lead this city forward.
“All of you out there watching on TV and up here have made this night possible,” he said. “We faced some powerful forces in this race. We didn’t have the most money … but we had something more important. We had a people-powered campaign and we had a commitment with that people power to let the voters of Los Angeles choose the next mayor, not any power brokers.”
Garcetti also had kind words for his opponent.
“I want to thank Wendy Greuel for her dedication to public service,” Garcetti said. “Wendy and I both love Los Angeles, and she has given her professional life to making this city a better place. And I know she will continue on that mission.”
Tony Zapata said Tuesday he knows Garcetti will do for the city what he did for the Hollywood area: “He brought jobs, cleaned up the neighborhood. He’s a leader.”
As mayor, Garcetti will face ballooning pension costs and a looming battle between city leaders and employee groups over proposed labor concessions included in Villaraigosa’s final budget.
But those issues were not enough to get voters to the polls Tuesday.
Voter turnout was 19.2 percent, according to figures from the City Clerk’s Office, despite several debates, numerous campaign stops and record spending. More than $30 million was spent on mailers and television, radio and other ads.
The “abysmal” turnout prompted at least one lawmaker on Wednesday to call for a change in the city’s election cycle.
Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) wants city elections to be aligned with state and presidential election, which traditionally have much higher voter turnouts.
He said the “relentless campaigning” and “record spending by candidates and ballot campaigns” was not enough to get people to vote.
If the initial report of a 19 percent turnout holds up, it will be one of the lowest on record. That’s far below the 54 percent of area residents who voted in the most recent Presidential election.
“Aligning these races would help increase turnout in elections that hit closest to home and save taxpayers millions of dollars,” said de León.