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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 May, 2005, 09:33 GMT 10:33 UK
Latino challenger is new LA mayor
Antonio Villaraigosa celebrating his apparent victory
Antonio Villaraigosa dedicated his victory to the people of LA
The US city of Los Angeles has elected its first Hispanic mayor since the pioneer days of the 19th Century.

Antonio Villaraigosa, a son of a Mexican immigrant, defeated incumbent Mayor Jim Hahn, a fellow Democrat.

With votes from most of the city's precincts counted, he leads Mr Hahn by 58.5% to 41.5% after a poll marked by low turnout across the city.

Mr Villaraigosa said his victory was a moment of unity for a city where Latinos make up 46% of the population.

The challenger took a narrow early lead over Mr Hahn with the publication of unofficial postal vote tallies from across the city, and widened his advantage as results began to pour in.

We are all Angelenos tonight
Antonio Villaraigosa

Mr Hahn initially refused to admit defeat, insisting that the result could still swing his way.

But the swing did not come, and Mr Hahn called his opponent to concede shortly after midnight (0700 GMT).

"The results of this election say it more eloquently than I ever could," said Mr Villaraigosa, who lost the 2001 election to Mr Hahn.

"We are all Angelenos tonight. It doesn't matter whether you grew up on the Eastside or the Westside."

Dropout v dynasty

Correspondents say the two candidates' sharply contrasting personal backgrounds showed off their essential differences.

Mr Villaraigosa, 52, dropped out of high school in deprived East Los Angeles before paying his way through law school and rising to become the speaker of the state assembly.

A supporter of Antonio Villaraigosa celebrates in Los Angeles
In downtown LA champagne flowed as early results came in
Mr Hahn, 54, comes from a powerful political dynasty and has been mayor since 2001.

Mr Hahn is the first incumbent mayor to fail to win re-election since Sam Yorty lost in 1973, when Tom Bradley became the city's first black mayor.

He is also the first mayor to lose an election after a single term of office since the Great Depression.

Mr Villaraigosa's victory will make him Los Angeles' first Hispanic mayor since Cristobel Aguilar in 1872, a time when the city was a dusty frontier town of just 5,000.

Mr Hahn began voicing regrets by 2000 (0300 GMT) at an early election party in Hollywood, telling supporters: "I should have spent more time bragging about what I was doing."

Mr Villaraigosa has said it is time for change.

Earlier, thousands of his supporters gathered in downtown Los Angeles for an election night party in anticipation of a win for their candidate.

The BBC's David Willis in Los Angeles says the rising popularity of Mr Villaraigosa is seen as a reflection of a shifting demographic in the US, with Latinos becoming more powerful politically.

His appeal also stems from being able to reach across racial lines, our correspondent says.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Watch the celebrations in LA as Villaraigosa is elected



SEE ALSO:
US Hispanics 'to triple by 2050'
18 Mar 04 |  Americas
Courting the Hispanic vote
20 Sep 04 |  Americas
Hispanics overtake blacks in US
19 Jun 03 |  Americas
Hispanic loses LA mayor bid
06 Jun 01 |  Americas


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