Hahn Heads Los Angeles

james hahn, Los Angeles mayor candidate
The nation's second-largest city Monday inaugurated its 40th mayor, who called for unity among Los Angeles' diverse peoples and sprawling neighborhoods.

James Hahn, a mild-mannered Democrat and longtime city attorney, took the reins in Los Angeles after beating back an aggressive campaign from a man who had hoped to be the city's first Hispanic mayor in more than a century.

"Let's get to work," Hahn told a throng gathered under a hot sun after he took the oath of office.

Hahn, 50, won election June 6, receiving 53 percent of the vote in the runoff race to 46 percent for former state Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, also a Democrat. Hahn had 293,273 votes to Villaraigosa's 254,491.

Hahn, who technically assumed office on July 1, enjoyed high name recognition thanks to his years of city service and his late father, Kenneth Hahn, who served four decades as a county supervisor. Hahn's sister, Janice, also triumphed in the June election, winning election to the City Council.

Hahn had overwhelming support from the black community, which constituted his father's base, and also succeeded in winning over many of the more moderate and conservative voters who backed other candidates in the primary.

One of Hahn's first tasks as mayor will be to quell a secession threat from the city's San Fernando Valley, even as the city undergoes a dramatic demographic transformation.

Los Angeles lost 15 percent of its black population over the past decade while its Hispanic population rose 24 percent. With nearly 4 million residents, the city is now 11.2 percent black and 46.5 percent Hispanic.

Villaraigosa, 48, the son of a Mexican immigrant who grew up on the rough streets of East Los Angeles, caught the imagination of the city's growing Hispanic population with his charisma and up-from-the-barrio story. His candidacy put a focus on the changing face of the city.

But Hahn kept Villaraigosa on the defensive with a harsh campaign focused on public safety issues.

Mayor Richard Riordan, a wealthy Republican businessman who has been in office since 1993, could not run again because of term limits. He had endorsed Villaraigosa.

With Hispanics on their way to becoming the city's new majority population, Villaraigosa appealed to many as the face of the future as he vied to become the city's first Hispanic mayor since 1872.

But analysts said he never recovered from a Hahn attack ad that used grainy images of a lit crack pipe and a razor blade cutting cocaine. The ad slammed Villaraigosa for a letter he wrote on behalf of a drug dealer whose sentence was later commuted by former President Clinton.

Before serving as city attorney — Los Angeles' top prosecutor — for 16 years, Hahn served on term as the city's controller, or chief fiscal officer. He grew up in South Los Angeles and attended Pepperdine University, receiving his undergraduate degree and law degree there. He is married with two children.

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