Los Angeles elected Eric Garcetti as its first Jewish mayor in 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 Wednesday morning.
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 day school. Both candidates are liberal Democrats and their campaigns were based more on personalities than ideological differences.
Defeated in the earlier primaries 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 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 new 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.
Los Angeles’ 600,000 Jews make up the second largest Jewish community in the United States, but are only six percent of the city’s roughly 4 million residents. However, they generally represent about 20 percent of those actually casting ballots in municipal elections, which are marked by low voter turnout.
In Tuesday’s election, only 19 percent of registered voters cast ballots by mail or at polling stations.
In a historical footnote, one Bernard Cohn was the appointed mayor of Los Angeles for a few weeks in 1878.