- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 4, 2009

LA Mayor Villaraigosa takes early lead

LOS ANGELES (AP) Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has opened up a wide lead over nine little-known challengers in his bid to claim a second term.

Early returns and a tally of vote-by-mail ballots showed the mayor with 55 percent of the vote Tuesday. His closest rival — attorney Walter Moore — had less than half that amount. Turnout appeared light.

After a campaign that offered scant drama, Villaraigosa appeared poised to win re-election after an uneven first term. He must capture more than half the vote to avoid a May runoff.

The charismatic 56-year-old mayor brought fresh visibility to the office, and crime dropped steadily on his watch. But the city faces a possible $1 billion budget gap by 2010 and the dropout rate remains unchanged in the school system he promised to reform.

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