Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti will face City Controller Wendy Greuel in the May 21 matchup to replace exiting Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Garcetti, who is half Mexican, topped the field in Tuesday's primary election, carrying 33 percent of the vote. Since no candidate cleared a majority of the vote needed to win outright, he'll face Greuel. She got 29 percent of the vote, accordingly to preliminary returns.

Technically, the mayor’s race is nonpartisan. But Los Angeles is a heavily Democratic city, and both Garcetti and and Greuel identify with the Democratic Party.

The city appears headed for another first at City Hall. Greuel would become the first woman mayor, and Garcetti could become the first Jew elected to the post (but not the first to hold it in a temporary capacity). The two candidates also have roots in the city's San Fernando Valley.

The election capped a lackluster primary campaign that was snubbed by most of the city's 1.8 million voters. Turnout was scant.

The next mayor of the nation's second largest city inherits a raft of problems: Crime is relatively low but City Hall is nearly broke, the airport is an embarrassment, freeways remain clogged and potholes, cracked sidewalks and untended trees infest many neighborhoods.

Rising pension and health care costs for workers threaten dollars needed for libraries, street repairs and other services.

"The city's ability to provide services that improve the quality of life of city residents has diminished," city Administrative Officer Miguel Santana wrote in a report last month.

Angelenos are known to give local politics a collective shrug, and turnout failed to reach 30 percent in Villaraigosa's hotly contested primary in 2005, when he was trying to become the first Hispanic mayor in more than a century. He was re-elected in 2009 with a meager 152,000 votes, in a city of nearly 4 million people.

The leading candidates dueled mostly over pocketbook issues and City Hall insider politics — a looming deficit, 10.2 percent unemployment, the grip of municipal unions.

"The campaign itself hasn't really gotten people's blood going," said longtime Democratic strategist Garry South. "It's been small-bore stuff for the most part and the average voter is saying, 'What's this got to do with me?'"

The Los Angeles mayor presides over a budget that exceeds $7 billion, but it is a comparatively weak office hemmed in by a powerful City Council. Unlike other big cities such as New York, the Los Angeles mayor cannot directly appoint the head of schools or police.

Voters also picked a city attorney, city controller and about half the 15 members of the City Council.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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