L.A. holds 24-way mayoral election

April 20, 1993|By New York Times News Service

LOS ANGELES -- It has been all but forgotten amid the tensions surrounding the trial and verdict in the Rodney King police beating case, but Los Angeles approaches a milestone today with a vote for a new mayor.

The election is the climax of two years of political and racial turmoil that have rent this sprawling city's social fabric. For the first time in 64 years the ballot lists no incumbent, and for the first time since 1965 the name of Tom Bradley, mayor for the last 20 years, does not appear on the ballot.

The publicity over the jury deliberations and verdict in the last week has frozen the race, leaving the two leaders in the polls well ahead with no time left for the 22 other candidates to get much attention.

The two leaders are City Councilman Mike Woo, 41, a liberal Democrat who has represented the Hollywood section of the city for eight years, and Richard Riordan, 62, a lawyer, venture capitalist and middle-of-the-road Republican.

Since neither is likely to get more than 50 percent of the vote today, there will almost certainly be a runoff June 8. The two men are already positioning themselves for a runoff, attacking each other in their final television commercials.

In general, political experts here believe that the peaceful aftermath of the trial, in which a federal jury found two police officers guilty in the beating of Mr. King, was probably a plus for Mr. Woo, who has a wide following among black and other minority voters and was the first major politician in Los Angeles to call for the ouster of Daryl F. Gates, the former police chief.

Mr. Riordan, a wealthy, longtime power broker who has pledged a tough stance on crime, has wide appeal among whites and higher-income voters fearful of further civil disorders. If there had been violence over the weekend, it is generally believed that it would have strengthened the hand of Mr. Riordan, whose campaign slogan is "tough enough to turn L.A. around."

Also on the ballot is a measure that would pay for 1,000 more police officers. The measure was given a lift by the smooth performance of the Los Angeles Police Department under its new chief, Willie L. Williams, after Saturday's verdict.

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