But Garcetti, 42, has a far different profile than Villaraigosa, the product of a broken home who grew up on the rough streets east of downtown and once sported a ‘‘Born to Raise Hell’’ tattoo. Garcetti, the son of a former district attorney, is an Ivy Leaguer and Rhodes Scholar from the Valley’s tony Encino enclave who enjoys playing jazz piano.
Villaraigosa’s Hispanic identity was central to his 2005 victory over Mayor James Hahn, a scion of an Irish political clan. He won with record Hispanic turnout, but also claimed significant support across a wide range of demographic and geographic groups. He won an easy, but not impressive, re-election in 2009.
The city’s diverse population — 93 languages are spoken in the Los Angeles Unified School District — is about half Hispanic. However, Hispanics are expected to make up only about one-in-four votes in the primary, since a chunk of that population is too young to vote, not U.S. citizens or not registered. Blacks and Asians each make up about 10 percent of the population, with most of the remainder white.
The expected low turnout makes surprises more likely, elevating the roles of Democratic Councilwoman Jan Perry, 57, who is black and Jewish, and former prosecutor Kevin James, 49, a Republican former prosecutor and radio talk show host who is openly gay. Former technology executive Emanuel Pleitez, 30, a Hispanic, is also on the ballot.
In the post-Villaraigosa era, Hispanic voters ‘‘have gotten beyond having a Latino candidate for mayor, or having to have one,’’ said Jaime Regalado, former executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.
‘‘It’s a certain maturation of Los Angeles’ Latino voter,’’ Regalado said. ‘‘That threshold has been passed.’’