Image: L.A. Mayoral candidate Antonio Villaraigosa.
Matt Sayles  /  AP
Antonio Villaraigosa celebrates Wednesday.
updated 3/9/2005 3:11:14 PM ET 2005-03-09T20:11:14

Incumbent Mayor James Hahn survived a close call, making it into a May runoff against a Hispanic city councilman after the third-place candidate conceded defeat Wednesday.

The outcome of Tuesday’s primary election sets up a rematch of the 2001 runoff, pitting Hahn, who has been weakened by corruption and other problems, against councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, who is seeking to become the first Hispanic to win the mayoralty in the nation’s second-largest city in more than a century.

Nearly 24,000 absentee and other ballots remained to be counted, but candidate Bob Hertzberg trailed second-place Hahn by 5,800 votes, a margin his campaign concluded was too great.

“I called Mayor Hahn this morning and congratulated him on his victory,” Hertzberg said during a morning news conference.

Delayed because of foggy weather, the vote tally had continued into early Wednesday.

In 2001, Villaraigosa, a high school dropout who went on to become speaker of the California Assembly, was also the top vote-getter in the primary, but he lost the runoff to Hahn, 53 percent to 46 percent.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday, Villaraigosa led with 124,561 votes, or 33 percent.

The mayor tallied 89,189 votes, or 24 percent, while Hertzberg, also a former Assembly speaker, had 83,420 votes, or 22 percent.

Winning outright takes more than 50%
Villaraigosa would have had to get more than 50 percent to have won the election outright.

“People want a fresh start, they want to get traffic moving again, they want to address the challenges that we face,” said the liberal Villaraigosa, who opened his runoff campaign Wednesday with a symbolic visit to the San Fernando Valley, where moderate-to-conservative voters snubbed him in 2001.

Election officials blamed the weather for unusually slow returns. Evening fog forced organizers to abandon plans to use two helicopters to ferry returns to the city’s downtown election center. Instead, a fleet of cars was deployed.

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No Los Angeles mayor has been bounced from office in more than 30 years. Hahn, whose family has been active in Los Angeles politics since the 1940s, has been beset by the corruption allegations at City Hall and his own drab image in the most star-studded city in America.

Villaraigosa and Hertzberg had pounded Hahn over ongoing investigations at City Hall that centered on allegations that members of his administration traded city contracts for campaign donations.

The Los Angeles Times posted on its Web site results of an exit poll of 2,789 voters that found the investigations appeared to make a difference. Nearly half of those surveyed said the corruption allegations affected their choice.

Ex-Chief Parks comes in fourth
Running fourth in the counting was Councilman Bernard Parks, the black former police chief who was ousted in 2002 with Hahn’s blessing. The Times exit poll found that, as expected, Parks siphoned off significant black support from Hahn.

The race is non-partisan, and all four top candidates are Democrats.

Villaraigosa, 52, grew up in a broken home on the city’s heavily Hispanic Eastside. His up-from-the-barrio story defines his political image — the son of a Mexican immigrant who rose from a gritty neighborhood to the halls of power in Sacramento and Los Angeles.

In other election results, Doris Matsui, a lobbyist and former Clinton White House official, handily won the special election to succeed her late husband in Congress. Rep. Robert T. Matsui, who died Jan. 1, had served the House from a Sacramento district for more than 25 years.

In Florida, new Las Vegas-style slot machines were given the thumbs-up for four betting sites in Broward County, but neighboring Miami-Dade County narrowly rejected a similar proposal.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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