11:15 Garcetti and Greuel continue fight, this time over air time
The two mayoral candidates who have been neck-and-neck in the polls continued their fight to be first by both giving their election night speeches just as the 11 p.m. TV newscasts hit the airwaves.
Garcetti and Greuel surely created a headache for news directors who had to decide where to go first. NBC4 went with Greuel, who thanked all four of her opponents for their efforts and for withstanding 42 debates.
NBC4 then switched to Garcetti in mid-speech, just in time to hear him criticize the independent groups that are spending millions on Greuel's behalf.
— Oscar Garza
11:01 Garcetti party heats up
The Avalon in Hollywood is packed now with Eric Garcetti supporters. Near the stage, a former California Supreme Court justice and playwright are standing near a neighborhood activist from Watts.
“Just looking at the crowd here today, there’s a mix of ethnic groups, races and ages,” said former Justice Carlos Moreno. “[Garcetti's] a deep thinker, yet he’s able to mix with the common people.”
Coincidentally, Moreno explained, his grandparents and Garcetti's paternal grandparents came from the same fishing village in Sonora, Mexico.
It is indeed a mix of people at the Garcetti party. Richard Montoya of the comedy trio Culture Clash said Garcetti is “going to listen to artists and blue collar folks.
And then there was Perry Crouch, a community activist from the Imperial Courts housing project in Watts. “Garcetti cares most about gang intervention,” Crouch said. He described how Garcetti had visited Watts gang task force meetings.
No sign of Garcetti's celeb backers Salma Hayek or Will Ferrell yet. But still watching.
— Frank Stoltze
10:33 p.m. LAUSD board president welcomes old friend and mentor
Monica Garcia's political mentor, José Huizar, a current L.A. City Councilman, greeted her with a big hug outside her Boyle Heights campaign headquarters after the polls closed.
They met as high school students at Eastside private schools.
Huizar pushed for education reforms as a school board member with Garcia as his chief-of-staff. Those policy proposals drew a lot of fire then and continued to during Garcia's re-election bid.
"They're contentious and controversial because you're going up against long standing beliefs that have penetrated the educational system for a long time," Huizar said.
Garcia's campaign was helped by support from the Coalition for School Reform, which spent $1.2 million on her behalf. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg also backed her re-election effort.
"From Mr. Bloomberg or Washington D.C. or Sacramento, I welcome your help," Garcia said. "Kids of Los Angeles are important to California and the United States of America."
Inside, a DJ spun salsa tunes as campaign workers, charter school leaders and other supporters kept close watch on election results projected on a wall next to a campaign poster. Early returns had Garcia with about 55% of the vote.
— Adolfo Guzman-Lopez
9:56 p.m. LAUSD Board incumbent Zimmer is keeping the faith
L.A. Unified school board incumbent Steve Zimmer said he spent election day “pounding the pavement” to rally Westside voters to reelect him.
“Every vote counts,” said Zimmer, surrounded by more than 100 people at a 1920s style speakeasy, the Next Door Lounge, in Hollywood.
The former teacher is facing off against lawyer and LAUSD parent Kate Anderson.
Results were trickling in for three school board seats that have attracted national attention — and dollars. Last-minute spending pushed expenditures past $5.8 million dollars by election day, already making it one of the most costly elections in district history. The race has been broadly billed as a referendum on Superintendent John Deasy’s charter school-friendly policies and his push to use testing data to evaluate teachers.
Most of the money, $4.8 million, was spent on independent expenditures by outside groups. In this case, UTLA and SEIU on one side and the Coalition for School Reform on the other. The coalition vastly outspent labor in an effort to defeat Zimmer, re-elect Board President Monica Garcia, and elect a newcomer, Antonio Sanchez, in an open seat.
“Everyone knows that the school board of Los Angeles is not for sale,” Zimmer said, prompting howls and cheers from the crowd.
— Vanessa Romo
9:48 p.m. Let's get this Greuel party started
Wendy Greuel's election party is definitely going for a younger vibe. The playlist has been updated with Beyonce and Lady Gaga — an upgrade from the standard Black Eyed Peas and Stevie Wonder.
Police Commissioner John Mack took to the stage to address the crowd, just after Adrienne Maloof of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" entered the party. According to Mack, Greuel has not just "the smarts to get it done, but I think she’s a bridge builder. She knows how to bring people together and find common ground.”
— Alice Walton
9:35 p.m. Garcetti, Greuel grab edge in LA mayoral contest
The two leading candidates in the contest to replace Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa seized an early edge Tuesday, after a low-profile campaign in which no issue or candidate electrified voters.
A partial tally of mail-in ballots released by the city clerk showed Democrats Eric Garcettiand Wendy Greuel opening ground over other rivals, each with about 31 percent of the vote.
Returns from polling places had yet to be posted.
Turnout was light. Campaign strategists predicted that when Election Day voters are added, no more than a quarter of the city's 1.8 million voters will have cast ballots.
The five leading candidates in the nonpartisan contest made last-minute appeals during stops around the city, while unionized workers and other campaign volunteers tried to get voters to shake off indifference and go to the polls.
"I need you to vote, and then go encourage your friends and family to vote, too," Greuel, the city controller, told supporters in an email. She hopes to become the city's first woman mayor.
The likely outcome in the heavily Democratic city could send Garcetti, 42, a city councilman, and Greuel, 51, to a May 21 runoff, since it's unlikely any candidate will clear the majority needed to win outright Tuesday.
The sluggish turnout could help Democratic Councilwoman Jan Perry, 57, or former prosecutor Kevin James, 49, a Republican, slip into the two-person runoff. Former technology executive Emanuel Pleitez, 30, is a longshot.
There are plenty of problems to solve in Los Angeles. City Hall is nearly broke, the airport is an embarrassment, freeways remain clogged and potholes, cracked sidewalks and untended trees infest many neighborhoods.
Angelenos, however, are known to give local politics a collective shrug. Turnout failed to reach 30 percent in Villaraigosa's hotly contested primary in 2005, when he was trying to become the first Hispanic mayor in more than a century.
Villaraigosa was re-elected in 2009 with a meager 152,000 votes, in a city of nearly 4 million people. He leaves after two bumpy terms.
Los Angeles County Democratic Chair Eric Bauman attributed the light turnout to voter fatigue after the 2012 presidential race, along with a campaign that failed to produce a star candidate.
"I honestly think voters are worn out," Bauman said. "There isn't anything that is driving up turnout."
Still, there is the possibility of another first for LA. The city could elect its first woman mayor (Greuel or Perry), the first openly gay one (James), or its first Jewish one (Perry or Garcetti).
The five leading candidates have dueled mostly over pocketbook issues — a looming deficit, 10.2 percent unemployment and how to stop rising worker pension and health care costs from snatching money from street repairs and other services.
"The same career politicians that caused our city's problems now promise they can solve them," said James, who's positioned himself as an outsider who will upend the status quo at City Hall.
The Los Angeles mayor presides over a budget that exceeds $7 billion, but it is a comparatively weak office hemmed in by a powerful City Council. Unlike other big cities such as New York, the Los Angeles mayor cannot directly appoint the head of schools or police.
Voters also were picking a city attorney, city controller and about half the 15 members of the City Council, and deciding whether to increase the city's sales tax a half-cent to 9.5 percent.
— Michael R. Blood/AP
9:12 p.m. Trutanich opts for a tavern
At Rocco's Tavern on Ventura Boulevard, the Lakers game is on a few of the TVs, the Los Angeles city cable channel is playing on the patio.
The crowd appears to be a mix of regulars watching the game and guys in suits here for City Attorney Carmen Trutanich's election night party. They don't know yet if they're in for a closure of the campaign or a kickoff for the May runoff.
A recent L.A. Times poll put Trutanich in third place behind former Assemblyman Mike Feuer and private attorney Gregory Smith, but Trutanich spokesman John Schwada says the incumbent is solidly second in other polls.
The party site is just a couple of doors down from Trutanich headquarters. The blinds to that office are closed tight, although campaign aides can be seen going back and forth between there and the party.
— Sharon McNary
8:50 p.m.: LMU exit poll says it'll be Garcetti, Greuel in runoff
No big surprise here, but projections from Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University indicate City Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel are the top two vote-getters in today's mayoral primary election.
The two candidates have been neck-and-neck atop the polls from the outset.
According to the center: "Based on an exit poll conducted in 25 precincts across Los Angeles today, the Center projects that Garcetti will have 34 percent of the votes cast, and Greuel will finish with 28 percent. City Councilwoman Jan Perry is projected to finish third, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin James fourth and former technology executive Emanuel Pleitez fifth. Garcetti and Greuel will advance to the runoff election on May 21."
8:33 p.m. Mavens, mariachis and, oh my, what is that you're drinking?
At Wendy Greuel’s party, reporters and campaign volunteers are milling around. The top brass of the campaign, including consultant John Shallman, are in the building, but word is that the candidate herself won’t appear until at least 10 or 11 p.m.
John Mack of the Police Commission and a band of mariachis arrived at about the same time. Wonder if they carpooled?
And what would a major L.A. event be without a signature cocktail? The Winning Wendy cocktail is vodka, peach schnapps, simple syrup and fresh lemon. It's served on the rocks and costs $8. Me? Hey, I'm workin'. What would my boss say?
— Alice Walton
8:08 p.m. Garcetti celebration opts for historic setting
The hippest election night party may be at the historic Avalon night club in Hollywood. That’s where Eric Garcetti is gathering supporters in the heart of the district he represented for 12 years.
Built in 1927, the Spanish Colonial Revival style theater first opened as The Hollywood Playhouse. It was the WPA Federal Theater during the Great Depression and hosted CBS Radio Theater programs. The Jerry Lewis Theater once called the Avalon home too.
Garcetti’s staff arrived early to erect campaign signs and float blue-and-white balloons on the stage. They are hopeful on this election night, as the faithful usually are. Bossa nova played in the background as reporters hunkered down. Doors open to supporters at 9 p.m.
— Frank Stoltze
8 p.m. Polls have officially closed in Southern California. Look for live updated election results as they roll in, probably over the next hour or so.
6:57 p.m. José Huizar makes an early stop at Wendy Greuel party
Should the May runoff be a race between Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti, L.A. City Councilman José Huizar — an early supporter of hers — predicts voters will focus on the candidates’ different leadership styles.
“The issue is how do you implement that vision and I look at Wendy’s track record and how she just gets to it and gets it done – [she] stakes out a position and sticks to it and I think that’s another big difference is in style,” Huizar said.
The early word from the City Clerk’s Office is that turnout will be low. Huizar expects the final number to come in at about 25 percent.
“I think at the end of the day it will pick up when people get off of work, especially in working neighborhoods,” he said.
The councilman’s election night outfit included a blue-and-green tie. He told KPCC his wife suggested the tie to match with the Greuel campaign colors.
As for the Council District 9 race, Huizar says his former chief of staff, Ana Cubas, is in a three-way race with State Sen. Curren Price and Mike Davis. Only two can make it to the May runoff.
— Alice Walton
5:54 p.m. Wendy Greuel campaign staff prepares for election night party
The Wendy Greuel campaign prepared Tuesday afternoon to celebrate at the L.A. Brewing Company in downtown L.A. The small space is outfitted with “Wendy” lawn signs and blue-and-green balloons. Six large TV screens are showing local newscasts, which earlier included footage from a car chase. How L.A.
A table at the front of the restaurant greets supporters with stacks of T-shirts, bumper stickers, water bottles and pins, which all say "Wendy."
Right now, the staff is arguing about how to hang signs and balloons. Really.
— Alice Walton