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Liberal Councilman Woo, Conservative Riordan Headed for Runoff

April 21, 1993

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ In a mayoral election held in the relative calm after the Rodney King verdicts, voters on Tuesday sent conservative businessman Richard Riordan into a runoff with liberal councilman Michael Woo.

With 34 percent of the precincts reporting, Riordan led Woo 34 percent to 24 percent. Riordan had 56,945 votes to Woo’s 40,841. Since neither won a majority, they face off again June 8.

″It’s going to come down to a battle between Mike Woo and Richard Riordan,″ said Woo at his election party. ″The voters will have a choice. He stands for the excesses of the 1980s. I stand for the values of the 1990s and the future.″

Riordan, who spent heavily to boost his name recognition, said, ″I spent that money in the primary so that I could have an even playing field with the politicians who’ve had their names out there for 10 years.″

In other voting, a measure to increase property taxes to put an extra 1,000 police officers on the force was leading 60 percent to 40 percent - short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage. Two measures to limit the terms of lawmakers were winning by wide margins.

Eight City Council seats also were up for grabs, and two incumbents appeared headed for runoffs.

The mayoral election was the first since 1969 in which Tom Bradley’s name wasn’t on the ballot. The five-term mayor, first elected in 1973, is retiring. It was also the first mayoral election since 1929 in which an incumbent wasn’t running.

Riordan, 62, who pumped $3 million of his estimated $100 million fortune into the race, ran a Ross Perot-style campaign, publishing a book of his views and pledging to help solve the city’s problems with good business sense.

He ran on the slogan: ″Tough enough to turn L.A. around″ and portrayed Woo as an ineffective politician who couldn’t rehabilitate the seedy Hollywood section of his own council district.

Woo, 41, the son of Chinese immigrants, ran as a liberal activist, promising to provide city-backed loans to businesses in economically distressed parts of the city. He is trying to become the city’s first mayor of Chinese descent.

Riordan and Woo easily outpaced their closest rivals in the crowded field. Lagging behind were Councilman Joel Wachs with 10 percent, Assemblyman Richard Katz with 9 percent and former Deputy Mayor Linda Griego with 7 percent.

The election has been trumpeted as one of the most important in the city’s history, but turnout was a light 26 percent, according to the city clerk’s office.

Residents went to the polls just days after two white policeman were convicted and two acquitted of violating King’s civil rights in the March 3, 1991, beating of the black motorist. Last year’s state trial, in which all four officers were acquitted, sparked the city’s deadly riots.

The election also brought an end to the 20-year Bradley era, during which the city’s first black mayor was elected five times by a coalition of white liberals and minority voters.

Some voters said the tensions surrounding the two beating trials showed it was time for a change.

″Give someone else a chance. Maybe someone younger. Maybe we can put our ideas together and come up with something better,″ said Donnell Whitmore as he cast his ballot in South Central Los Angeles, where rioting erupted last April.

But Laronda Frazier said she expected winning candidates to do little to rebuild the impoverished section.

″A lot of candidates are playing on this revitalization thing, but once they get into office are they really going to do it?″ she asked. ″I hope so, but I don’t think so.″

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