Eric Garcetti was elected mayor of Los Angeles on Tuesday, reassembling the coalition of Westsiders and Latinos that carried Antonio Villaraigosa into office eight years ago.
But as this L.A. Times map shows, Garcetti also carried the northwest San Fernando Valley, a largely Republican area that Villaraigosa lost twice to James Hahn.
In order to win, Wendy Greuel needed those votes. Her path to victory was to recreate the Hahn coalition — Valley whites and African-Americans. She won the black vote. But she was separated from her conservative Valley base, which is the story of the campaign.
Even after Greuel fell four points short of Garcetti in the primary, her supporters were confident that she would win in the runoff because of her Valley roots.
“She's from the Valley,” David Fleming, a Greuel supporter, told the Weekly in March. “No one has been elected mayor of Los Angeles in the past 50 years who didn't win the Valley.”
It's not yet clear if Garcetti won the Valley. (Quite a lot of ballots remain to be counted.) But he did much better there than might have been expected earlier on.
For that, he can thank Republican endorsers — most notably, former candidate Kevin James — and of course, the union that represents employees of the Department of Water and Power. By spending $4 million on Greuel's campaign, the DWP union bosses created a clear distinction between two candidates that were often hard to tell apart. In the eyes of conservatives like James, Greuel was simply too beholden to labor to make tough decisions on fiscal issues.
Garcetti needed those votes, in part because he did worse with African-American voters than Villaraigosa did. Villaraigosa lost the black vote to Hahn by just a few points, largely because black voters were upset over the dismissal of LAPD Chief Bernard Parks.
Again, we don't have the final numbers yet, but it looks like Garcetti did much worse than that. Greuel won endorsements from many African-Americans leaders — Mark Ridley-Thomas, Maxine Waters, Magic Johnson, Danny Bakewell — and that helped her carry the black vote. An article in Bakewell's L.A. Sentinel predicted last week that “Blacks will be the determining vote in the election of the next mayor of Los Angeles.”
But the African-American population has declined since 2005. That year, blacks made up about 15% of the voter turnout. This year, the figure was 12% in the primary — with an African-American on the ballot. It's not clear yet what the figure will be for the runoff, but it may be lower. So Greuel's advantage in the black community meant less this year than it did to Hahn when he won the black vote overwhelmingly in 2001.
Garcetti won the Westside and the Latino Eastside by wide margins. But while he managed to rebuild Villaraigosa's coalition, but he did it without Villaraigosa's help. The mayor remained neutral, though his lone intervention in the race last week — denouncing two Spanish-language TV ads — seemed calculated to help Greuel.
One of the ironies of the race is that Villaraigosa staffers were for Greuel while his voters went for Garcetti. Garcetti's campaign, meanwhile, was stocked with Hahn alums.
“It's a resurrection of all of us,” said Rolando Cuevas, a Hahn commissioner who backed Garcetti. “They treated us bad.”