LA mayor race heading for a runoff

No, the nation’s second-largest city doesn’t yet have a mayor, but at least they have narrowed the eventual successor to Antonio Villaraigosa down to two people.  The top two finishers will face each other in a May 21 runoff, which to no one’s great surprise will be an all-Democrat race to run the city.  However, the message may still be more Republican:

City Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel remained at ahead of the pack in the race for mayor of Los Angeles early Wednesday morning with all city precincts reporting.

The top-two finishers in Tuesday’s election, will face off in what is expected to be a bruising May 21 runoff. Only 16% of the city’s 1.8 million registered voters cast ballots in the election.

Standing on a stage lined with supporters Tuesday evening, Garcetti thanked the crowd for their help and said he’s ready to get to work on winning the runoff election in May. Garcetti held a slim margin over Greuel and a significant lead over the six other candidates in the mayoral race, returns showed.

The top office won’t be the only position for which a runoff is needed, either.  Both the controller and city attorney races will end close enough to require one more time around the track, too.  Angelenos will be very busy with elections for the next few months, spent on deciding which Democrats to run the city.

That seems odd, too, since Angelenos show little patience for a traditional Democratic policy — tax hikes.  The LA Times reports that one of the few clear outcomes of the race was a rejection of another increase in sales taxes within the city:

The vote for a measure to add a half-cent to the city’s sales tax appeared to lose by a wide margin, the vote tally showed. The increase, Proposition A, would bring sales taxes in Los Angeles to 9.5%, one of the highest rates in the state, and raise $200 million a year for the city treasury.

Reuters also points out that both Gruel and Garcetti ran on a lower-taxes platform:

Los Angeles mayoral candidates Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel looked set for a run-off vote after a Tuesday primary election, in a race that has seen the two Democrats vow to slash business taxes to help the city rebound from a persistent economic slump. …

Garcetti and Greuel oppose a proposed Villaraigosa-backed half-cent sales tax hike and have both called for cuts in business taxes to promote economic growth, even as the city scrimps to plug a budget hole set to top $1 billion over the next four years.

The commercial tax structure that Garcetti and Greuel vow to phase out is known as the gross receipts tax, and it varies by type of business. Internet-based companies, for instance, are taxed at $1 per $1,000 in receipts, while professional service firms pay $5 per $1,000.

Angelenos had the option of choosing a Republican, an option that might have emphasized their distaste for higher taxes.  Kevin James, a local radio personality, did relatively well for a political novice with a third-place finish and 16% of the vote in a city dominated by Democrats.  Still, voters made it clear that they want a Republican approach to taxes and regulation, even if they haven’t given a Republican a shot at running the place since Richard Riordan left in 2001.  That may at least get Los Angeles started on the path of much-needed reform, but we won’t know that for sure until well after May 21st.