With the L.A. mayoral election a month away, Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti has opened a double-digit lead over City Controller Wendy Greuel.
According to a poll released Sunday by the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy and the Los Angeles Times, 50 percent of likely voters favor Garcetti, while 40 percent prefer Greuel. Once thought to be the favorite in the race, Greuel is seeking to become the city’s first woman mayor. The runoff election is May 21.
Perhaps most surprising: female voters support Garcetti over Greuel 50-41 percent. Poll director Dan Schnur, who heads USC’s Unruh Institute of Politics, suggested Greuel’s emphasis on her work as city controller may be weakening her with women voters.
“Greuel may be suffering from a Hillary Clinton problem,” Schnur said in a statement, referencing Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid. “Clinton emphasized her qualities of strength and toughness to such a degree that it mitigated her gender advantage. The difference is that Greuel might still have the time to fix it."
Saturday, former president Bill Clinton campaigned with Greuel during a stop at Langer’s Delicatessen near downtown L.A. Last month, Clinton endorsed Greuel, who worked in his administration.
The poll found Greuel’s close association with city labor unions may also be hurting her. When asked which candidate “cares more about unions representing city employees than Los Angeles as a whole,” 46 percent of voters said Greuel and 26 percent said Garcetti.
“The most important question in this campaign is whether Wendy Greuel can convince voters that her support from organized labor does not make her beholden to them,” Schnur said. During the primary, city labor unions spent more than $2 million dollars on ads promoting Greuel. They are expected to spend a similar amount in the runoff.
Garcetti is leading Greuel across most voter groups: He leads her among young voters, (59 percent to 33 percent); among Latinos (58 percent to 37 percent); and among whites (52 percent to 38 percent).
Among black voters, Greuel leads Garcetti 55-35 percent. Greuel worked for former Mayor Tom Bradley and has the backing of Magic Johnson and Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
Voters of all political stripes also prefer Garcetti. He garnered 55 percent of Republicans, thanks perhaps in part to the backing of Kevin James, who finished third in the primary. Though the mayoral race is non-partisan, James is a Republican who could help Garcetti with voters in the San Fernando Valley, which is Greuel's stronghold.
Garcetti and Greuel are both Democrats and he leads her among likely voters from their party, Greuel (50 percent to 41 percent), as well as among independent voters (50 percent to 37 percent).
But there are openings for Greuel on budget and education issues.
When asked which candidate they trusted most to handle the city’s budget and financial situation, voters chose Greuel over Garcetti, 47 percent to 39 percent. Similar percentages of voters said Greuel could best handle schools and education, although the mayor has no direct control over public schools.
Overall, the poll suggests Greuel is having a hard time connecting with voters.
When asked which candidate “represents all of L.A., every neighborhood and race,” 41 percent chose Garcetti and 33 percent chose Greuel. Voters responded similarly when asked who had a “strong and clear vision” for the city’s future.
"Garcetti is connecting on a more emotional level, conveying strength of leadership and having a vision for L.A.,” said Amy Levin, vice president of the Democratic polling firm Benenson Strategy Group. “These higher-level values tend to drive more votes than issues."
In the race for Los Angeles city attorney, the poll shows former state Assemblyman Mike Feuer leading incumbent Carmen Trutanich, 37 percent to 26 percent.
The USC Price/L.A. Times Poll was conducted April 15-17 by M4 Strategies and Benenson Strategy Group on behalf of the USC Price School of Public Policy and the Los Angeles Times. The full sample of 500 likely voters carries a margin-of-error of +/- 4.4 percentage points.