- The Washington Times - Friday, May 20, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Antonio Villaraigosa attracted substantial support from Hispanics, Democrats, liberals and younger voters to be elected mayor of the nation’s second-largest city, an exit poll shows.

Mr. Villaraigosa captured 84 percent of the Hispanic vote and, perhaps energized by his candidacy, Hispanic turnout reached a record 25 percent, according to a Los Angeles Times exit poll published yesterday. When Mr. Villaraigosa ran four years ago, the Hispanic turnout was 22 percent.

By contrast, the poll of 3,191 voters indicated incumbent James Hahn lost ground among even his core groups of supporters, which included Republicans, conservatives, Asian-Americans and senior citizens.

When he is sworn in July 1, Mr. Villaraigosa will become the first Hispanic mayor of Los Angeles in 133 years. His challenge will be uniting the city’s diverse and often-competing ethnic groups. He also must carry through with solutions to problems he discussed on the campaign trail: gangs, a lack of affordable housing and worsening traffic.

“The challenge isn’t getting elected now; the challenge is governing. How is he going to do this when he is under tremendous pressure from his own community, plus African-Americans who abandoned Hahn?” said Franklin D. Gilliam Jr., a political scientist at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Mr. Villaraigosa, 52, received 59 percent of the vote to Mr. Hahn’s 41 percent in Tuesday’s election.

The scion of a prominent political family, Mr. Hahn was turned out of office despite Los Angeles’ job growth and falling crime rate. His lackluster first term was tainted by corruption accusations at City Hall. He lost black support because he backed the ouster of Police Chief Bernard Parks, who is black. He also was hurt by his stiff, reserved demeanor.

He becomes the first Los Angeles mayor in 32 years to be bounced from office.

“Once you recognize that you’re a public servant, that means you’re someone’s employee,” Mr. Hahn, 54, said Wednesday at his campaign headquarters. “The employer makes hiring and firing decisions, and I accept that decision.”

The victory by one Democrat over another came more than a decade after Hispanics became the biggest ethnic group in the city. Los Angeles is now 48 percent Hispanic, 31 percent white, 11 percent Asian and 10 percent black.

Mr. Villaraigosa, who challenged Mr. Hahn in 2001, vowed to be “a mayor for all Los Angeles” while visiting a vocational school on Wednesday.

“I’ve said to people, ‘I’m an American of Mexican descent, and I intend to be a mayor for all Los Angeles,’ ” he said. “In this diverse city, that’s the only way it can work.”

The exit poll’s margin of error was two percentage points.

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