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LA mayor's race: Former candidate Kevin James endorses Eric Garcetti (Updated)

Kevin James, left, endorsed onetime rival mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti outside the Van Nuys branch of L.A.'s City Hall Tuesday.
Kevin James, left, endorsed onetime rival mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti outside the Van Nuys branch of L.A.'s City Hall Tuesday.
Sharon McNary/KPCC

Los Angeles Mayor race 2013Kevin James, who finished third in the mayoral primary, endorsed Eric Garcetti over Wendy Greuel in the race for L.A. mayor Tuesday.

James said he ran to provide an independent voice at City Hall, and he concluded that Garcetti was the more independent of the two finalists. He also saw Garcetti as more able to focus on economic development and job creation.

“Eric has demonstrated some independence from the traditional  power interests inside City Hall. That is important as we move forward as a city,” James told reporters and others as he stood alongside Garcetti at the steps of the Van Nuys City Hall building.

James has been critical of Greuel's support from labor unions, saying she would be beholden to them when key contracts come up for renewal next year. Greuel countered with her own press briefing Tuesday, accusing Garcetti of "demonizing" the unions.

The mayoral candidates spent a lot of time together over the course of the primary race and its 42 debates. James said he could predict the numbers that Garcetti would use when talking about job growth and economic development.

“If I had been able to poke holes in those numbers, I would have poked holes in those numbers, and I couldn’t,” James said. “We fact-checked them and they checked out pretty accurate.”

RELATEDKPCC's LA mayoral race endorsement tracker

Garcetti reviewed their common ground, mostly on economic development and job growth. He said he wanted James to be more than an endorsement, but to be an advisor on policy and government efficiency.

“I too share that same vision that L.A. can be great again when we rebuild it one job, one business at a time,” Garcetti said. “We’re going to work together on that, not just in this campaign but I hope that Kevin will contribute to this city beyond four years to come.”

James said Garcetti was better at admitting and discussion problems in city government than Greuel.

“We see eye-to-eye on things that people wouldn’t necessarily expect unless you’re following the campaign closely,” James said.

They agree on eliminating the city’s gross receipts tax on businesses, and on priorities for Los Angeles International Airport and the police department.

James, who gained a reputation for a willingness to attack his fellow candidates, said he was not about to let up. 

“He will be the next mayor of Los Angeles, and he will always have a consistent critic in me,” James said. “I will continue with my criticisms of City Hall, but to do so with the intent for making Eric a better mayor for the entire city.”

Garcetti responded, “I love to surround myself with critics.” He said he came to respect James and was incorporating some of James’ issues and ideas into his own campaign, including making the city’s pension system less costly.

Garcetti said he “couldn’t ‘be prouder” that the three also-ran candidates have now endorsed him. Along with James, Councilwoman Jan Perry and Emanuel Pleitez also threw their backing to Garcetti.

"Eric and I discussed and echoed a bit during the campaign about ways we can better work the Los Angeles Police Department," James said, "recognizing the budget constraints that currently exist in the LAPD."

FULL COVERAGE: The L.A. mayoral race

James, whose endorsement had been actively sought by both Garcetti and Greuel, received 16 percent of the vote in the March 5 primary. Though the race is non-partisan, James is a Republican who regularly touted the city's need to exercise fiscal conservatism. 

An exit poll from Loyola Marymount University found James received support from half of all Republicans who voted and 30 percent of decline-to-state voters. His endorsement could help Garcetti pick up conservative voters, particularly in the San Fernando Valley.

But there's one prominent endorsement Garcetti won't get. According to a Tweet from Time magazine political reporter Zeke Miller, White House press secretary Jay Carney says President Obama will not make an endorsement in the L.A. mayor's race:

Garcetti, who campaigned heavily for the president in both 2008 and 2012, was hoping for a show of support, especially given that Greuel has been endorsed by Bill Clinton.

Greuel once worked for Dreamworks Studio, whose principals — Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg — have been big supporters of both Bill and Hillary Clinton.