Cities

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti wins second term by comfortable margin

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti casts his election ballot with his daughter Maya in Los Angeles, on Tuesday, March 7, 2017.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti casts his election ballot with his daughter Maya in Los Angeles, on Tuesday, March 7, 2017.  (AP)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti claimed a second term Tuesday, easily trouncing 10 little-known rivals in an election with a tiny turnout but potentially major implications for the nation's second largest city.

The 46-year-old Democrat had an insurmountable lead by winning 81 percent of the first 70,000 votes counted. Mitchell Jack Schwartz was in second with nearly 8 percent, and eight other candidates had 3 percent or less.

"I want to thank the citizens who voted for me, you made this moment possible," Garcetti told supporters at his victory party, then repeated the line in Spanish.

"Tonight, we celebrate, and tomorrow I'll go back to work doing the job I love," the mayor said.

Garcetti said he plans to focus on the city's weakest even as the national government neglects or targets them, making veiled reference to President Donald Trump.

"It's time to stop thinking about the most powerful man in our country and start thinking about the most vulnerable people in our city," Garcetti said.

In the voting for the city's ballot measures, the fiercely contested proposal known as Measure S, intended to restrict larger real estate projects, was losing 60 percent to 40 percent.

The proposal, which Garcetti opposes, was intended to restrict taller, denser development in the city of nearly 4 million.

A Los Angeles County measure that asks for a quarter-cent sales tax increase to pay for homeless services was getting 61 percent of the early vote, short of the two-thirds it needs to pass.

In the mayoral election, Garcetti faced 10 barely-known challengers. He is often mentioned as a likely candidate for higher office, and the outcome could provide a springboard for future campaigns or raise doubts about the depth of his appeal.

Challengers had hoped to hold him below 50 percent, which would have forced a May runoff.

Garcetti, who was elected four years ago on a back-to-basics slogan, has touted job growth, helped secure funds for rail lines intended to help unclog freeways and championed a $1 billion program to get control of a homeless crisis.

Municipal elections in LA often get a yawn from voters, and a sparse turnout is expected. However, a small turnout also can open the way for surprises.

Measure S has shadowed municipal contests this year, and it challenges Garcetti's vision for building thousands of new apartments clustered around train stations.

Its supporters fear that LA is being gradually transformed into a sunnier, West Coast version of Manhattan. They argue that City Hall too often bends to politically connected developers whose large projects with high rents drive out lower-income residents, contributing to homelessness and increasing congestion.

But Garcetti warned it could drive the city into recession. Rusty Hicks, who heads the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, calls the proposal "an anti-worker housing ban" that would hobble the construction industry.

The election comes at a time of renewal and struggles for the nation's second-largest city.

Once-dreary downtown has seen a rebirth, and new residents and trendy restaurants have been moving in. A stronger economy has helped bring jobs, including to the tech industry hub known as Silicon Beach. And a region without an NFL team for two decades now has two, the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers.

But poverty rates remain alarming, and tents used by the homeless run for blocks along some downtown streets. Violent crime has climbed for the third consecutive year, jumping by 37 percent from 2014 to 2016. And drivers continue to face some of the nation's worst gridlock, while potholes and cracked sidewalks bring gripes across the city.