Eric Garcetti becomes first Jewish mayor of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Los Angeles councilman Eric Garcetti was elected as the American city's first Jewish mayor on Wednesday, after a hard-fought run-off race to succeed Mr Antonio Villaraigosa, full results showed.

Mr Garcetti won 54 per cent of the vote in Tuesday's election, against 46 per cent for City Controller Wendy Greuel, who would have been the city's first female mayor. The result, which was expected to be tight, was initially too close to call.

At an election party which went into the small hours to await the final tally, Mr Garcetti said he plans to build on the West Coast metropolis' emerging recovery from the global downturn.

"We have sent a message... and that message is that LA is ready to put the recession in the rear-view mirror and to become the city of opportunity that I grew up in once again," he told supporters.

Voter turnout was low, at 19.2 per cent, even less than the 21 per cent who voted in a March primary election that whittled eight candidates down to Mr Garcetti and Ms Greuel.

Mr Garcetti, whose showbiz links drew an endorsement from comic Will Ferrell, has an international background, having studied at Oxford University and the London School of Economics.

He touted his record on promoting economic development, including the revitalisation of Hollywood - such as the building of a US$500 million (S$626 million) hotel project that he was key in brokering.

The 42-year-old, who has Mexican and Jewish roots and lives in the hipster-friendly Silver Lake district east of Hollywood and north of downtown LA, will take office on July 1.

Ms Greuel, 51, who spent five years at movie giant DreamWorks, faced questions during the campaign over financial backing from labour unions, as well as a pledge to increase the police ranks by 2,000.

Mr Villaraigosa, one of America's most high-profile Latino political leaders since taking office in 2005, could not stand for re-election after two terms.