Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel campaigned their hearts out, but in the end the L.A. County Democratic Party decided not to endorse either one in the race for L.A. mayor.
At tonight's endorsement meeting, neither candidate could muster the 60% of delegates required to secure the endorsement.
Both sides made a strong push. Over the weekend, Greuel enlisted Assembly Speaker John Perez to record a robocall to Democratic delegates.
About 70% of the voters in L.A. municipal elections are Democrats, judging by exit polls in past campaign. The party's endorsement would have been a major advantage in what is shaping up as a close-run contest.
On the first ballot, Garcetti led with a plurality of 84 votes (or 44%), falling 30 votes shy of the 60% threshold. Another 76 votes went for Greuel (or 40%), with 15 ballots (8%) going to Councilwoman Jan Perry.
Little changed on the second round of voting. With Perry eliminated, Garcetti took 83 votes (46%), falling 25 votes shy of the endorsement. Greuel had 75 votes (42%).
After the vote, both sides were quick to claim the upper hand.
"I look at it as a victory," Garcetti said. "I'm glad we finished first."
"We're thrilled at this point," Greuel said. "This is pretty much even." Greuel's consultant, John Shallman, took it a step further, saying he was "ecstatic."
Both candidates spent the weekend making calls to delegates. Greuel brought in two prominent supporters from Washington, D.C., Reps. Janice Hahn and Tony Cardenas, to make the pitch directly to delegates.
In brief remarks to the delegates, Greuel touted her connection to Mayor Tom Bradley and pledged to "be the progressive mayor."
When it was his turn, Garcetti took a couple of indirect swipes at Greuel. He presented himself as a "lifelong Democrat" -- in implicit contrast with Greuel, who did not become a Democrat until she was 31. He also emphasized his effort to put L.A. on record against the Iraq war. "Not everybody opposed that war," he said -- a reference to Greuel's opposition to the anti-war resolution.
Jan Perry urged her fellow Democrats not to make an endorsement.
"Let's not begin this race by tearing our party apart," she said.
Her consultant, Eric Hacopian, called the non-endorsement a good outcome for Perry.
"There's not gonna be the big stamp of the Democratic Party telling people to vote for a particular candidate," Hacopian said. "There's nothing interfering with us taking our message to Democratic voters."
The L.A. County Federation of Labor also declined to endorse in the mayoral primary, leaving the two biggest endorsements in the race out of play.
Update, Friday: Here's the audio of John Perez's robocall: