Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti and mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel mastered the art of political mannerisms in this year’s mayoral race: The perfect on-camera smile. The presidential wave. The charming ad-libs during speeches and interviews.
While Garcetti made history as the first Jewish mayor elected in Los Angeles, in a time when women make up such a paltry percentage of all political positions, a greater symbol of social justice would have been Greuel as mayor. In the end, Los Angeles should have elected its first female mayor — it would have been a beautiful sign of gender equality.
Though the two candidates wielded similarly impressive resumes of extensive government service and enviable academic endeavors, 42-year-old Garcetti nailed his win with an eight-point lead over Greuel. But the mayoral race barely energized the public to actually get out the vote — only 19 percent of eligible L.A. voters engaged in their civic duty this year.
Greuel might have left this race victorious if more voters recognized the significance of electing a female mayor in such an evenly matched race. But instead, less than a quarter of the eligible voting population decided our mayor would be yet another male.
Admittedly, Garcetti’s strategy, to play up his Latino heritage and mobilize very specific voter groups, led to his triumph. He also capitalized on Greuel’s weaknesses: He attacked her close alliances with the labor unions, questioned her candor in his advertisements and portrayed himself as the “independent” candidate — free from the stronghold of super PACs and corporations.
But unlike the presidential election, where a Republican and a Democrat with distinct visions for the nation fight before the American people, Garcetti and Greuel bickered over matters where they actually overlapped. Both candidates wanted to create more jobs. Both support benefits for same-sex partners. Ultimately, the election flatlined instead of picking up heat because there were few areas where they contrasted.
The public also saw how Garcetti and Greuel shared remarkable backgrounds: Garcetti worked as a councilman and Greuel as the city controller. They have each contributed to this city by adding programs. Garcetti introduced UNTAG to eradicate graffiti from neighborhoods, while Greuel made streets safer by adding more left-turn signals.
So if this is really the case — if Garcetti and Greuel are truly equal in skill and vision — we must question why Los Angeles failed to elect its first female mayor. We must question why this country still does not see many females in office even when they are clearly capable of fulfilling all given responsibilities. With Councilmember Jan Perry’s exit, there will be no female city councilmembers in the next term.
Certainly, Garcetti has the charisma and intelligence to run this city. But seeing Greuel in office would have been a lighthouse in an American landscape darkened by sexism and prejudice against women.
“I may not have been able to break through the glass ceiling last night, but you sure helped me put a crack in it and because of your work, the next woman candidate in my shoes will crash right through it,” Greuel said in her concession speech.
Unfortunately, the leadership of a woman might not occur if voters don’t see the importance of electing a woman. By having more women in strong leadership roles, children will not see only men in positions of power.
According to the Huffington Post, L.A. is the second-largest city in the country — a country that for some unfortunate reason ranks 79th in the world for political representation. Just imagine what Mayor Gruel could have done for the future of females in politics.
If the voters had recognized this significance and had been mobilized to cast their ballots, they would have made history for such an underrepresented gender.
Rini Sampath is a sophomore majoring in international relations global business.