Written by The Business Journal Staff
(AP) — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti claimed a second term Tuesday, easily trouncing 10 little-known rivals in an election with a tiny turnout but potentially major implications for the nation’s second largest city.
The 46-year-old Democrat, whose campaign benefited from an improved economy, had an insurmountable lead by winning 81 percent of the first 90,000 votes counted. Mitchell Jack Schwartz was in second with nearly 8 percent, and eight other candidates had 3 percent or less.
“I want to thank the citizens who voted for me, you made this moment possible,” Garcetti told supporters at his victory party, then repeated the line in Spanish.
“Tonight, we celebrate, and tomorrow I’ll go back to work doing the job I love,” the mayor said.
Garcetti said he plans to focus on the city’s weakest even as the national government neglects or targets them, making veiled reference to President Donald Trump.
“It’s time to stop thinking about the most powerful man in our country and start thinking about the most vulnerable people in our city,” Garcetti said.
In the voting for the city’s ballot measures, the fiercely contested proposal known as Measure S, intended to restrict larger real estate projects, was losing 63 percent to 37 percent with about 90,000 votes counted.
The proposal, which Garcetti opposes, was intended to restrict taller, denser development in the city of nearly 4 million.
A Los Angeles County measure that asks for a quarter-cent sales tax increase to pay for homeless services was getting nearly 63 percent of the early vote, but was short of the two-thirds it needs to pass.
Mayoral challengers had hoped to hold Garcetti below 50 percent and force a May runoff.
Garcetti is often mentioned as a likely candidate for higher office, and the victory could provide a springboard for future campaigns.
Garcetti, who was elected four years ago on a back-to-basics slogan, has touted job growth, helped secure funds for rail lines intended to help unclog freeways and championed a $1 billion program to get control of a homeless crisis.
The sparse turnout was typical of municipal elections in LA.
Measure S has shadowed municipal contests this year, and it challenged Garcetti’s vision for building thousands of new apartments clustered around train stations.
Its supporters fear that LA is being gradually transformed into a sunnier, West Coast version of Manhattan. They argue that City Hall too often bends to politically connected developers whose large projects with high rents drive out lower-income residents, contributing to homelessness and increasing congestion.
But Garcetti warned it could drive the city into recession. Rusty Hicks, who heads the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, calls the proposal “an anti-worker housing ban” that would hobble the construction industry.
Another city ballot measure, which would give the mayor and city council new powers to regulate marijuana as its recreational form becomes legal next year, had the support of 77 percent of voters after early ballots were counted. The measure would also set different tax rates for different forms of pot.
The election comes at a time of renewal and struggles for the city.
Once-dreary downtown has seen a rebirth, and new residents and trendy restaurants have been moving in. A stronger economy has helped bring jobs, including to the tech industry hub known as Silicon Beach. And a region without an NFL team for two decades now has two, the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers.
But poverty rates remain alarming, and tents used by the homeless run for blocks along some downtown streets. Violent crime has climbed for the third consecutive year, jumping by 37 percent from 2014 to 2016. And drivers continue to face some of the nation’s worst gridlock, while potholes and cracked sidewalks bring gripes across the city.