Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Runoff for Mayor Presents Voters in Los Angeles with Clear Choice

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Runoff for Mayor Presents Voters in Los Angeles with Clear Choice

Article excerpt

RICHARD RIORDAN or Michael Woo?

The next mayor of Los Angeles will be a conservative, white, 62-year-old millionaire, or a liberal, Asian, 41-year-old career politician.

The two men will square off in a runoff election June 8 that will present Los Angeles voters with their starkest contrast between mayoral candidates in more than 20 years. They got into the runoff by coming out on top of a 24-candidate field in Tuesday's primary. Mr. Riordan received 33 percent of the vote and Mr. Woo won 24 percent.

"Riordan is seen as the old-guard, male-dominated establishment candidate, and Woo the multiethnic coalition builder," says Allan Hoffenblum, a Los Angeles political consultant. "Each has a different agenda and a different way to get there."

While the outcome of the election will be heavy in symbolism, it may not affect the running of City Hall that much. Under the city charter, the mayor has relatively little power compared to the eight-member City Council and the city manager.

"Both candidates have been promising change, change, change, from the {Mayor Tom} Bradley years," says Susan Estrich, a law professor at the University of Southern California (USC). But Ms. Estrich, who was Michael Dukakis's campaign manager in 1988, points out that Woo has been a member of the City Council for eight years and Riordan has worked closely with Mayor Bradley. "It's hard to believe the total picture will be all that different. They are both a product of the same system," she says.

In the six-week runoff campaign, Riordan and Woo must lasso votes that went to other candidates in the wide-open primary. They will be aided by the fact that, with the Rodney King trial over, voters will be able to concentrate on the mayor's race.

"Now the voters can really focus on the candidates," says Larry Berg, a USC political scientist. "Because of the King trial and so many entrants, this has been a nonelection so far."

No matter who wins the runoff, the next mayor will confront a lingering recession and burgeoning population that is straining the resources of city government. …

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