Update: "Here's What Went Wrong for the Challenger."
Update: Early election results reveal Martinez' problems may be even bigger than we thought. As of 9:08 p.m., Huizar holds over 60 percent of the vote, though only 15 percent has been reported (and that's mostly older absentees).
Reporting by David Futch and Simone Wilson.
Originally posted at 8:20 p.m.
Yes, we just spent 12 hours exit-surveying at City Hall in Eagle Rock. (Good times.) No, this does not mean we can predict an outcome in the City Council District 14 race just yet -- but it does suggest problems for challenger Rudy Martinez.
The area we chose was weak for incumbent Jose Huizar last election. He won around 50 percent support in Eagle Rock, even though he scored a landslide 66 percent districtwide. So he's got that working against him. Then there's the fact that Martinez lives just up the hill, and knows a good swath of the area's voters personally.
And still, our tally of over 300 Eagle Rockians came up DEAD EVEN between the frenemy candidates.
Out of 511 people at the Eagle Rock City Hall polling place, 166 said they voted Huizar, and 164 said they went for Martinez. (An additional 135 refused to divulge that information, 33 skittered off before we could catch them and 13 either didn't remember or decided against both candidates. Ouch.)
From our casual survey, we found that voters' prevailing reason for choosing the incumbent was his "experience" and "personality." The challenger, on the other hand, received most praise for being a businessman and a fresh face.
An overwhelming complaint among voters was the amount of mud-slinging and negative campaigning that marred District 14's election season this year. One man, who voted for neither Huizar or Martinez, called them "hypocrites" for their classless behavior, and many complained of the "mountains of election stuff" that arrived in the mail, especially over the last few days.
Then again, a few voted against Huizar based on his community V.I.P. list, which leaked in January. Others bashed Martinez for allegedly toting around an LAPD badge. So in the end, it looks like the shit-talking had some sway.
Some choice anti-Huizar gripes:
"Doesn't show up to council meetings."
"Always missing in action."
"He's been sending me hideous mailers."
"Already had his chance."
"He's a full-time -- how do I say this? -- politician."
"His giant billboards, paid for by CBS [Outdoor], are a little squirrely for me."
"Should have found some real reasons for what to cut in the budget."
"He's been spending money on crap and not doing anything."
"I wouldn't vote for him if he was the last man on Earth."
And anti-Martinez gripes:
"Ran a completely negative campaign, never said anything about what he would do."
"I don't know him personally -- because he wasn't around."
"Started the dirty campaigning. Outright lied about facts."
"My fear is that he's a stealth Republican. Kind of spooky."
"Unable to answer questions at debate."
"The prices at his restaurants are too high."
And anti-everything gripes:
"Huizar is horrible. And the other guy is a crook like the rest of them."
"I held my nose. The smell was intense."
"Martinez ran a very dirty campaign, but Huizar wasn't too far behind."
"Personally, I detest both of them."
"They're both slime."
"We voted for the lesser of two evils, but we still weren't sure who was the lesser."
Like we said: Ouch.
It's well worth recognizing that Martinez, a non-incumbent with no political experience, has made amazing strides against the Los Angeles incumbency machine. He built up a huge fan base, snagged a Los Angeles Times endorsement and spent well into the six figures on his campaign (though Huizar raised him by almost $200,000 in the end).
But outlook isn't good.
The two precincts that feed into Eagle Rock City Hall are seen as a Martinez stronghold by him and his consultants -- yet he was only getting 50 percent of the vote there today, according to our exit survey.
Huizar didn't do all that well among voters in the two precincts that used the polling place at Eagle Rock City Hall back in 2007, winning 66 percent of the vote overall but held to the low 50s by voters in those precincts.
This time, however, despite all Martinez' efforts (one voter said she chose him because he showed up on her doorstep in the pouring rain), Huizar appears to be bringing in roughly the same support in the neighborhood as he did back in 2007.
Strangely, when we asked Martinez' camp to point us to a precinct where the 2007 vote was most representative of Huizar's performance overall -- one where an exit poll today would instantly show who had won voters' hearts -- they gave us a Youth Center in El Sereno that's attached to Councilman Huizar's office, complete with campaigners trolling the sidewalks and an uncovered "Jose Huizar" sign right outside the polling place.
Out of touch, or strategic as ever? We'll see.
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On a side note, we're pleased to announce the Eagle Rock voting location pasted a white strip of paper over the "Jose Huizar" street sign, so as not to influence voters, unlike the El Sereno Huizarfest.