Los Angeles will elect a new mayor Tuesday, when City Councilman Eric Garcetti (D) faces off against City Controller Wendy Greuel in a runoff election to replace the term-limited Antonio Villaraigosa.
Garcetti and Greuel finished first and second in the March 5th primary with 32.9 and 29.2 percent of the vote, respectively; because no candidate garnered 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers advanced to Tuesday’s runoff.
According to the most recent poll on the race, released Friday by the University of Southern California’s Price School of Public Policy and The Los Angeles Times, Garcetti leads Greuel by a 48 to 41 percent margin among likely voters, with 11 percent undecided. The poll also found that 48 percent of respondents who had already voted by mail support Garcetti, compared to 42 percent who support Greuel.
Although Garcetti has consistently led in the polls, the race is still very much up in the air. Along with the 11 percent of voters who are undecided, more than 20 percent of respondents to Friday’s poll say they could still change their minds. Low voter turnout could also lead to a surprise result. Just 20.8 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in the March primary — a number that former President Bill Clinton called “ridiculous” while campaigning for Greuel in April. Although turnout is expected to rise slightly in the runoff, the vote total will likely hit its lowest level in over 70 years.
While voter interest in the race has been paltry, outside spending has been overwhelming. The Times reports that over $33 million has been spent in the election, shattering previous records — 41 percent of the money raised for Greuel and Garcetti since March 2011 has come from SuperPACs and other outside groups, with the pro-Greuel SuperPAC Working Californians leading the way with more than $4.1 million.
Greuel’s labor support has been a major issue in the campaign, as Garcetti has hammered Greuel with ads accusing her of being a tool of the powerful Department of Water and Power employees union. Overall, however, Garcetti and Greuel have relatively few pronounced policy differences.
Whoever wins the race will make history; Garcetti would be the first Jew to be elected mayor of Los Angeles, while Greuel would be the first woman.