WHITE DEMOCRAT elected mayor in Los Angeles, dashing Hispanics' hopes - NewsOn6.com - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - KOTV.com |

WHITE DEMOCRAT elected mayor in Los Angeles, dashing Hispanics' hopes


LOS ANGELES (AP) _ City Attorney James Hahn was elected mayor in a contest that returned City Hall to the Democrats for the first time in eight years and dashed Hispanics' hopes of gaining political power to match their burgeoning numbers.

Hahn, a white liberal whose father was a legend in city politics, assembled a coalition of blacks and white conservatives Tuesday to triumph over former state Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, another liberal Democrat who would have been Los Angeles' first Hispanic mayor since 1872.

Hahn received 54 percent of the vote in the nonpartisan race to 46 percent for Villaraigosa.

He succeeds Richard Riordan, a millionaire Republican businessman who is barred by term limits from running for a third time.

The mayor was one of several prominent politicians to endorse Villaraigosa, raising hopes among Hispanics in the nation's second-largest city that their time had come. Hispanics account for nearly 47 percent of Los Angeles' population of 3.7 million, and represent the biggest single ethnic or racial group, but hold only three of the 15 City Council seats.

Hahn, 50, who has been city attorney since 1985, now faces the challenge of holding together his coalition while reaching out to voters turned off by the hard-hitting campaign he ran against Villaraigosa.

``The crazy-quilt coalition that he put together, of African Americans and white conservatives, go very separate directions on a lot of policy issues,'' said Steven P. Erie, a political scientist at the University of California at San Diego who studies Los Angeles.

``Not only does he have to reach out to those turned off by what some thought was a dirty campaign at the end, but he also has to steer some kind of course to keep his voter coalition together.''

The new mayor said he is sure he can unite the city's factions when he takes office July 1.

``I've had a lot of friends in the Latino community over the years. I'm confident that people will see that Jim Hahn is the one to bring the city together,'' Hahn said. ``I'm going to be somebody who brings people in.''

Villaraigosa, 48, an immigrant's son and one-time high school dropout from East L.A., energized the city's Hispanic populace with his charisma and up-from-the-barrio life story.

Hispanics turned out in record numbers Tuesday and voted for Villaraigosa 4-to-1, according to exit studies by the William C. Velasquez Institute and the Los Angeles Times.

Black voters supported Hahn better than 3-to-1. And by positioning himself as more moderate and tougher on crime than his opponent, Hahn also earned the support of the moderate-to-conservative voters who backed other candidates in the April primary.

Villaraigosa was the top vote-getter in the primary, but Hahn drew on his family's deep political roots in the city and kept Villaraigosa on the defensive by portraying him as overly liberal and soft on crime.

Hahn angered many by blanketing the airwaves in the final 10 days of the race with an ad that used images of a crack pipe and a razor blade cutting cocaine to attack Villaraigosa for writing a letter on behalf of a drug dealer whose sentence was commuted by President Clinton.

Hahn defended himself in a news conference Wednesday, saying his late father, Kenneth Hahn, would have approved.

``My dad was a tough campaigner,'' Hahn said. ``I looked at some of his old campaign literature. My campaign would've been mild compared to that, so I'm sure he would've been proud of me, and my mom agrees.''

Kenneth Hahn was a white man who earned the enduring affection of the largely black residents of the South Los Angeles neighborhoods he represented for 40 years as a county supervisor.

James Hahn's uncle Gordon served on the City Council for a decade, and his sister Janice won her own seat on the council Tuesday.

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