Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel appear headed to a mayoral runoff in May, after taking the top two spots in Tuesday's primary election.
With about 42% of precincts reporting, Garcetti had 34% of the vote to Greuel's 29%. The third place contender, Councilwoman Jan Perry, trailed well behind with 17%, though her campaign was not conceding late Tuesday.
Speaking just after 11 p.m. to hundreds supporters in Hollywood, Garcetti declared "We are going to win this race."
Garcetti also drew a sharp contrast between himself and Greuel, whom he alleged is "bought and paid for" by the union that represents employees at the L.A. Department of Water and Power.
"This city has a choice to make, between identifying problems and solving them," Garcetti said. "A choice between rosy promises and proven results. A choice between a mayor's office that's bought and paid for by the power brokers at the DWP union, and a mayor's office that is of the people, by the people and for the people of Los Angeles."
Earlier in the evening, at Greuel's election night party in downtown L.A., strategist John Shallman said she was well positioned for the runoff.
"We like where we are," Shallman said. "Given the shots we were taking, to be in the place we're in now -- we're very excited."
Jan Perry was not giving up hope of advancing to the runoff, though she trailed by double digits.
"We are very proud of the campaign we have run against opponents who enjoyed massive funding advantages," said her consultant, Eric Hacopian. "Most of South L.A. has yet to report, and we expect the numbers to tighten as the counting continues."
With few substantive differences between the top two finishers, Greuel's backing from IBEW Local 18 -- the DWP union -- became a major issue in the primary campaign. Working Californians, the IBEW-sponsored independent committee, spent $2 million supporting Greuel and attacking all three of her major opponents. The L.A. Police Protective League spent another $580,000 backing Greuel.
Her opponents alleged that she would be too cozy with city unions if elected. The IBEW contract is up for renewal next year, and IBEW traditionally has had heavy influence over policy at the utility. Greuel countered that she would be an independent mayor, and noted she also has support from business groups.
Greuel and Garcetti each spent just shy of $5 million in the primary, with much more to come in the runoff. Despite that spending, turnout in the primary was expected to be low, though an official figure will not be available for some time.
Kevin James, the Republican former radio host, was trailing late Tuesday in a disappointing fourth place, with 14% of the vote.
Now that the field appears to have been narrowed to two, Greuel and Garcetti will be jockeying for support from those who voted for Perry and for James. Garcetti reached out to Perry, James and Emanuel Pleitez in his remarks.
Perry, in particular, could help either campaign in the African-American community.
"She's gonna be a major player in the runoff," said Bill Carrick, Garcetti's strategist.
Carrick noted that Working Californians and Greuel's campaign had both savaged Perry in the closing days of the race, airing a radio ad and sending a mailer that attacked her for declaring bankruptcy in the 1990s.
"The stuff at the end of the campaign was terrible," Carrick said. "Wendy can't blame it on (IBEW head) Brian D'Arcy or anybody else. She did it herself. It was mean-spirited and it served no political purpose."
Update, 2:30 a.m.: With 100% of the vote counted, it's Garcetti 32.9%, Greuel 29.2%. James moves into third with 16.4%, followed by Perry at 15.9%. We'll have to wait for late absentee and provisional ballots to get a final tally.