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Big Bucks Spent in Tight Los Angeles Mayor Race

by Javier Gonzalez, published

Gerry Boughan / Gerry Boughan /

Next week, Los Angelinos will vote in a number of municipal races, including the election to decide the city's next mayor. With no one dominant voter bloc, the top contenders have worked for months -- some years -- to build what they hope will be a winning coalition.

Since Tom Bradley became the first black Mayor, Los Angeles has elected its mayors by way of coalitions.

Tom Bradley was mayor from 1973 to 1993. He passed off his position to a man who helped shape his coalition, Republican Richard Riordan. Riordan won two elections with strong Valley, Republican, and moderate Democratic support.

However, Riordan's successors, James Hahn and current Mayor Villaraigosa, each pulled together coalitions heavily dependent on a mix of Westside Democrats, organized labor, business, and a combination of either strong African-American or Latino support.

With those two heavily connected men now out of the picture, the next Mayor of Los Angeles will have to create his or her own version of coalition politics. Share the news: Tweet

Each of the top five contenders are making it virtually impossible for any one to get a majority to win outright in the March 5 primary election. Yet, only two candidates have aggressive and realistic campaigns to get into the runoff election. As expected, the top two frontrunners, lead the pack in endorsements and money raised.

Long time City Council President Eric Garcetti leads in fundraising with over $3.5 million to date. City Controller Wendy Greuel is close behind with $3.1 million. The other three appear to be niche candidates with significant resources, but long shots. Tweet it: Tweet

Republican Kevin James could sneak into the runoff in the heavily Democratic city if he can unite Republican votes as the four Democrats split up the minority vote, Westside Democrats, and younger voters. Long-time moderate councilwoman Jan Perry has raised over a million dollars, but few expect her to earn many votes outside the African-American community.

Meanwhile, 30-year-old Emanuel Pleitez hopes to improve on his last run for office where he served as spoiler on behalf of Judy Chu in her defeat of then-State Senator Gil Cedillo for a vacated congressional seat. Any of the three second-tier candidates could potentially garner enough votes in the primary to either sneak in to the runoff or become coveted by the top candidates for endorsement.

In the meantime, the plush accounts and high voltage campaigns of Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti are going toe-to-toe. From TV ads, including millions spent on ads for Greuel paid for and run independently by Police and Utility workers Unions, to endorsements, policy positions, and voter targeting, the Greuel and Garcetti campaigns not only look like the top-tier choices, but are starting to resemble each other.

Nowhere is this more evident than with their campaign contributions. The contributor lists for Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti are not without their high income earners. Tweet at the candidates: Tweet

In fact, the donor A-list for both top contenders include many people with occupation titles like "President, Senior Vice President (VP), VP, CEO, CFO, Owner or Chairman, Principal, or Partner." Eric Garcetti has 1,731 top executive donors who have given him $798,829. Meanwhile, Wendy Greuel is close behind with 1,259 executive donors giving her $704,799.

Lawyers have given big money in the race. Wendy Greuel slightly outpaces Garcetti with 891 lawyer donors giving her $398,519, while Garcetti's 805 attorney pals have given him $332,718.

In Real Estate, Greuel has 353 supporters kicking in $216,163, while Garcetti brings in 330 donors for $157,713.

Eric Garcetti has done more in Hollywood than get YouTube endorsement videos from Will Farrel and Salma Hayak. He has 929 Hollywood related types giving him $377,377. Meanwhile, the former Steven Spielberg employee, Wendy Greuel, has 329 Hollywood donors for $169,436.

Clearly with a different set of friends than most, the two top contenders in the Los Angeles mayor race also received impressive support from the "retired, unemployed, and homemaker" community. Greuel is closing in on half a million and her opponent is not far behind.

While the leading candidates try to set themselves apart with voters, they share the affinity and money of the city's elite. With the addition of many lower income contributors, there is plenty of money driving Los Angeles' mayoral race.

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