South LA voters could play tiebreaker in the mayoral election

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imageIn Tuesday’s mayoral election, about one-third of voters cast their ballots for Councilman Eric Garcetti and one-third for Wendy Greuel, propelling both candidates on to the May 21 runoff election. In the coming months, it’s all eyes on that remaining third–a group that includes many South L.A.voters.

Most of Garcetti’s votes came from the Westside through Hollywood and out into the East side. Greuel cleaned up in the Valley, where she used to be a councilwoman. Conservative Kevin James picked up more than 16 percent of the vote–with pockets of support scattered around the city. Councilwoman Jan Perry got just shy of 16 percent of the vote–with the vast majority of her votes coming from South L.A. Perry took 60 or 70 percent of the vote in some South LA neighborhoods.

“She dominated in South L.A.,” said Kokayi Kwa Jitahidi of The South Los Angeles Power Coalition. “Which puts her and her voters in a very, very strong position to determine who the next mayor will be.”

South L.A.’s voters–many of whom are African-American, could go either way in May.

“I think they’re up for grabs,” said former Los Angeles Daily News Editor Ron Kaye. “The question is will anybody vote? And is anything at stake that makes people want to vote?”

Perry’s primary campaign was more critical of Greuel than it was of Garcetti, which may improve Garcetti’s chances with her supporters. And many Latino groups have thrown support behind Garcetti, which could be significant in South LA, where more than 60 percent of residents are Latino. The Latino Coalition of Los Angeles PAC–an organization focused on representing the political interests of South American and Central Americans–officially endorsed Garcetti before the primary.

“Garcetti is a coalition builder,” said Latino Coalition president and founder Raul Claros. “He’s embraces the Latino coaltion’s focus.”

The group is also backing Ana Cubas in the Council District 9 election.

“When we met with them, Cubas and Garcetti had a comprehensive, logistical, practical and concrete plan for South LA,” said Claros.

Jitahidi said both Greuel and Garcetti have made promises to South L.A., and wants someone who will keep their promises to be elected. He said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa courted South L.A. in his mayoral campaign, but failed to deliver on his pledges.

“Both of them have given rhetoric to working with South L.A.,” Jitahidi said. “I think whoever wins has to be committed to actually making those promises true. I think only way we do that is if South L.A. really organizes in a coordinated and consistent way.”

He says he’ll be focused on boosting voter turnout. Turnout around the city was just 16 percent Tuesday, and even lower in South L.A.

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