Los Angeles’ next mayor will oversee a city with thousands of miles of streets in need of repair. The mayor will inherit a budget with a $216 million shortfall and similar-sized gaps expected on into the future. The next mayor will almost certainly have to renegotiate public employees’ pay and pension packages with those employees’ powerful unions.
Somehow, amid all this, a surprising amount of attention in this election season is being devoted to the seemingly inconsequential fact that three of the five leading candidates for L.A. mayor claim Jewish identities of one sort or another.
The acknowledged fact is, Jews vote in disproportionately large numbers, which helps explain why the mayoral candidates will have debated in half a dozen synagogues across L.A. over the course of the campaign. By March 5, every Jewish voter in the city will likely know that City Councilman Eric Garcetti identifies as both Latino and Jewish, City Controller Wendy Greuel is married to a Jewish man and is a member of a synagogue, and City Councilwoman Jan Perry, who is African-American, converted to Judaism as an adult.
These three experienced insiders are joined in the running by two formerly unknown outsiders, both without claims to Jewishness — radio talk-show host Kevin James and former mayoral aide Emanuel Pleitez. Both are holding incumbents responsible for the current state of the city, and each presents a different kind of challenge to the frontrunners, who are trying to build a coalition that can draw voters to the polls.
With such a crowded and competitive field, no candidate is expected to win an outright majority in next month’s election, but Jewish voters will certainly help decide which of the candidates will finish in one of the top two spots and advance to a run-off election in May. Profiles of the top five candidates follow. (For more coverage, visit jewishjournal.com/la_mayors_race.)