LA elects first Jewish mayor since 1878

Democrat Eric Garcetti, 42, defeats Wendy Greuel to become mayor of US city with 2nd largest Jewish population.

May 22, 2013 22:45
2 minute read.
LA mayoral race winner Eric Garcetti

Eric Garcetti 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

LOS ANGELES – This city chose Eric Garcetti as its first elected Jewish mayor in one a number of political contests on Tuesday that reflected the city’s diversity, as well as its numerous variations of Jewishness.

Garcetti, 42, and a veteran city councilman, defeated City Controller Wendy Greuel by eight points according to final results announced on Wednesday morning. He will take office on July 1.

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He is the son of a Jewish mother and was raised as a Jew. On his father’s side, he is of mixed Italian and Mexican heritage.

Greuel is not Jewish but is married to a Jewish attorney and their nine-year-old son attends a Jewish religious school. If she had won, she would have become the city’s first woman mayor. Both candidates are liberal Democrats and their campaigns were based more on personalities than ideological differences.

Defeated in the earlier primary was Councilwoman Jan Perry, an African-American and a convert to Judaism.

Jewish candidates for two other citywide offices won impressive victories. Mike Feuer, a longstanding Jewish community activist, beat incumbent City Attorney Carmen Trutanich by 62 to 38 percent of the vote.

Newcomer Ron Galperin handily defeated veteran politician Dennis Zine by 12 points to become the city controller.

In his campaign literature, particularly when aimed at Jewish voters, Galperin stressed that his parents were Holocaust survivors who had fought for Israel in the 1948 War of Independence.

Garcetti has earned a reputation as a consensus builder since he was first elected to the city council in 2001.

He served as council president from 2006 to 2011 and has called attention to his record on environmental initiatives and his role in the urban revival of once-blighted areas in Hollywood, the area he has represented.

A onetime Rhodes scholar, he is the son of former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, who was the city’s top prosecutor during the murder trial of O.J. Simpson in the 1990s.

Los Angeles’ 600,000 Jews make up the second-largest Jewish community in the United States, but are only 6% of the city’s roughly 4 million residents. However, they generally represent about 20% of those casting ballots in municipal elections, which are marked by low voter turnout.

In Tuesday’s election, only 19% of registered voters cast ballots by mail or at polling stations.

In a historical footnote, a Jewish man by the name of Bernard Cohn was the appointed mayor of Los Angeles for a few weeks in 1878.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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