Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 5:30 p.m.
Updated below: Ridley-Thomas is the winner, and turnout looks to be 8.6%.
Believe it or not, today is election day, at least in a portion of the Westside and South L.A. The special election will fill a vacancy in the 54th Assembly District, and turnout is expected to be very light.
Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, the 26-year-old son of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, should be the favorite, if money and endorsements are any guide. But as in particle physics, strange things can happen when the electorate is infinitesimally small.
Chris Armenta, a former Culver City councilman, is Ridley-Thomas' strongest opponent.
Both are Democrats, and there don't seem to be any major ideological differences between them. Instead, the race has broken down along insider/outsider lines.
Ridley-Thomas won the big-shot endorsements
-- including from Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Gov. Jerry Brown. He also raised $600,000 and benefited from another $150,000 spent on his behalf by outside groups. (Most of the independent money came from Alliance for California's Tomorrow, a pro-business coalition.)
Armenta, meanwhile, raised $71,000. His endorsements are from neighborhood council leaders, along with most of the elected officials in Culver City.
The candidates are vying for the seat vacated by Holly Mitchell when she was elected in September to fill Curren Price's former state senate seat. Price vacated the seat when he was elected to the L.A. City Council in May.
Also on today's ballot is John Jake, a real estate broker. Morry Waksberg is also running as a write-in candidate. If no one gets a majority of the vote, a runoff will be held on Feb. 4.
"The big question of tonight, above all else, is whether Ridley-Thomas wins it outright or not," said Eric Bauman, the chairman of the L.A. County Democratic Party. (The party endorsed Ridley-Thomas.)
The Ridley-Thomas forces are certainly working to get their voters out, with robocalls, mailers and precinct walkers. Still, turnout could end up around 10 percent.
"It's not as though everybody got up and said, 'Oh my god, it's election day," said Fred MacFarlane, Ridley-Thomas' spokesman.
Update, 8:53 p.m.: With absentee ballots counted, Ridley-Thomas has 59 percent of the vote to Armenta's 36 percent.
Update 2, 10:37 p.m.: Looks like there will be no need for a runoff. With 70 percent of the precincts counted, Ridley-Thomas has extended his tally to 62 percent. Time to call it.
Update 3, 8:30 a.m.: Voter turnout ends up at 6.9 percent. Probably will creep up a tiny bit when provisional and late absentee ballots are counted, but still. Wow.
Update 4: 12:00 p.m.: According to L.A. County, about 4,691 ballots remain to be counted. If you add that figure to last night's total, turnout ends up at 8.6 percent.