Los Angeles mayoral candidate, Wendy Greuel, visits the Sherman Oaks/East Valley Adult Center on Election Day, Tuesday, March 5, 2013.
Los Angeles mayoral candidate, Wendy Greuel, visits the Sherman Oaks/East Valley Adult Center on Election Day, Tuesday, March 5, 2013. (Dean Musgrove/Staff Photographer)

City Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel are headed for a runoff battle in May after Tuesday's returns pegged them as the top two finishers in the mayoral primary.

The two were leading a field of eight candidates, but neither appeared to have the necessary threshold to win outright and avoid a runoff.

Garcetti spoke to supporters at a Hollywood nightclub around 11 p.m., and took some swipes at Greuel, while reaching out to the three other leading candidates who didn't advance past the primary.

In an apparent reference to Greuel's role as controller Garcetti said: "This city has a choice to make. It's a choice betwen identifying problems and solving them. It's a choice between rosy promises and proven results."

Then referring to the heavy spending for Greuel from unions, he added: "It's a choice between a mayor's office that's bought and paid for by the powerbrokers at the DWP union or a mayor's office that is by the people, for the people and of the people of Los Angeles."

He also thanked Councilwoman Jan Perry, who finished third in Tuesday's count, saying she "reminded us that government is best when it works within its means" and then thanked candidates Kevin James and Emanuel Pleitez.

Greuel, who held her election night party at the Los Angeles Brewing Co., emerged to "I Love L.A." blaring on the speakers, with her 9-year-old son, Thomas, and husband, Dean Schramm, all waving to the cheering crowd.

"It's early, but it sure looks good," she told supporters.

She asked them to stay vigilant through the runoff campaign.

"We're 11 weeks from making history electing the first woman mayor and, of course, first mom," she said.

Also, on Wednesday the influential Service Employees International Union Local 721, which represents many L.A. city workers is expected to announce its mayoral endorsement. Sources say the group, which did not endorse in the primary, is going to throw its support behind Greuel.

Tuesday's primary capped an increasingly combative race that featured three City Hall insiders and two outsider critics among the front-runners. Negative mailers and accusations dominated in the two weeks before the election. Greuel was frequently targeted by opponents over heavy union spending on her behalf.

No other candidate had Greuel's advantage going into Tuesday's election.

Unions for the Department of Water and Power and police, as well as film executives and other interests spent $2.7 million in an effort to elect her. The funds paid for television and radio ads, mailers, and polling research, according to City Ethics Commission filings.

Nearly $2 million of that money came from Working Californians, a group backed by the Department of Water and Power union.

Despite that backing, as the voting booths opened on Tuesday, the race remained extremely unpredictable. Numerous polls put Greuel, 51, and Garcetti, 42, as frontrunners, but many votes remained up for grabs.

The other frontrunners included Councilman Jan Perry, talk radio host and attorney Kevin James and tech executive Emanuel Pleitez. The lower-profile candidates who failed to qualify for city matching funds were advocate Addie M. Miller, factory production worker Norton Sandler and neighborhood council secretary Yehuda "YJ" Draiman.

None of the five front-runners was able to secure a large voting block before the primary to guarantee victory. That meant campaigns had to fan out across the city and tussle over shared bases.

Los Angeles mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti has lunch at the Original Tommy s on Roscoe Boulevard in North Hills on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 with students
Los Angeles mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti has lunch at the Original Tommy s on Roscoe Boulevard in North Hills on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 with students from the Van Nuys Aviation School. (David Crane/Staff Photographer)

Mostly, candidates had to just hustle.

In the days before the election, Greuel and Garcetti made it a point to visit North Hollywood, Boyle Heights, and other L.A. neighborhoods where there was no clear favorite candidate. Additionally, throughout his campaign Garcetti targeted first-time voters, while Greuel touted her efforts to become the city's first female mayor.

Overall, Greuel, Garcetti, and Perry started the race with similar strengths. All are City Hall veterans, and have varying degrees of name recognition. Their City Hall connections helped with fundraising. Perry brought in $1.5 million, while Greuel and Garcetti each raised more than $4 million during the race. 

The outsider candidates - Pleitez and James - relied on more creative ways to woo voters. Pleitez tried to chip away Latino votes from Garcetti. An East L.A. native, he placed his headquarters in Boyle Heights.

Pleitez also filed ethics complaints against Garcetti during the campaign over two alleged conflict of interest issues involving billboards and an oil lease.

James ran a series of web-only advertisements portraying City Hall as corrupt. Seeking to win Republican voters away from Greuel, James ran on a fiscally conservative platform, promising to rein in city employee salaries and challenge the unions' power. In a snub to Greuel, who used to represent the eastern San Fernando Valley, he referred to himself as "the Valley's candidate."

Perry also turned on Greuel in the weeks before the primary. The councilwoman is well-known in downtown and South L.A. for her fiscally conservative views and development background. But voters are less familiar with her in places like the San Fernando Valley.

In an effort to reach a wide swath of voters, Perry relied heavily on mailers, some of which attacked Greuel. In one, she accused Greuel of selling out voters for her DWP union backing.

But the attacks went both ways. In the campaign's final days, Working Californians spent $400,000 in television ad criticizing Garcetti. The committee also spent more than $170,000 on negative mailers targeting Perry and James. The spending suggested that Working Californians viewed nearly every candidate as a threat to Greuel in terms of votes.

Near the end of the race, the increasingly hostile tenor overshadowed discussion of the major issues facing the city. L.A.'s potholes and crumbling streets were a frequent topic on the campaign trail.


Staff Writer Mariecar Mendoza contributed to this report.

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