Popular Compton Politicians : Filer Challenges Tucker for Mayor

Times Staff Writer

Outspoken Councilman Maxcy Filer's last-minute decision to challenge his friend, incumbent Mayor Walter Tucker, has added an intriguing dimension to an April 16 municipal election already notable for contentious candidates and debates on crime and redevelopment.

By the close of filing last Saturday, 13 candidates were vying for three City Council positions, including the mayor's post, and six others were seeking jobs as city attorney, clerk or treasurer.

Council candidate James Hays Jr. and clerk candidate Louis Johnson have been kept off the ballot, however, in a dispute over signatures on their nominating petitions. Both said they would go to court to get on the ballot, and, if unsuccessful, run write-in campaigns.

Council candidate Walter Goodin was also disqualified originally, but was reinstated Thursday after City Clerk Charles Davis approved four signatures he had earlier rejected.

The race for mayor, apparently a sure thing for Tucker until Filer announced, stands out because it matches two of the city's most popular politicians.

Filer, 54, a councilman since 1976, has been reelected twice without a runoff, winning with 71% of the vote against two opponents in 1983.

Defeated Cade in 1981

Tucker, 60, a former school board member and councilman, defeated incumbent Mayor Lionel Cade with 61% of the vote in 1981.

Each man has lived in Compton at least 30 years and has been intimately involved in public life for most of that time.

Tucker is a dentist whose wife, Martha, founded the Compton New Image Committee in 1982. Filer helps run a center where teen-agers are taught about government, and his son, Kelvin, is president of the local school board. Filer is also a part-time aide to Assemblyman Frank Vicencia (D-Bellflower).

Both Filer and Tucker insist they will campaign without rancor and, when the election is over, continue to work together with no more than their usual differences.

Filer flatly refuses to comment on Tucker's record, and Tucker will only cautiously suggest that he may benefit if his record is compared to Filer's.

"He's running for the seat. I hope he's not running against me, because we're supposed to be friends," Tucker said. "But he has voted against a lot of the building we have done, and he voted no on (City Manager) Laverta (Montgomery)."

Tucker said that despite Filer's negative vote the council chose Laverta Montgomery as city manager in 1983 and that she has helped Compton begin to rebuild.

Sometimes Abrupt

Filer recently voted against a $30-million hotel-convention center set to start construction this spring, and he has opposed many city construction projects, Tucker noted.

Filer also is sometimes abrupt and has gone so far as to "browbeat" other council members during discussions, said Tucker. "I try to be fair and impartial and work with people," the mayor said.

Filer would not respond to this portrayal of him. "He can make any comment he wants," Filer said. "I won't comment, and when this is over, I will move on."

He did say, however, that Compton can improve itself more by enforcing existing laws than by continually supporting multimillion-dollar projects that may not be needed.

"I just want to make sure that the building codes, the graffiti codes and the removal of inoperable vehicle codes are enforced," he said. "And I think I can do it better from the mayoralty position. I'm trying to do it now, and I haven't been able to. The community will have more pride if they see we are doing things."

Influential Position

The mayor is guaranteed no more power than the four other City Council members, but can be influential as chairman at meetings and spokesman for the city. Each council member, including the mayor, receives $1,200 a month in salary plus $300 for expenses for the part-time job. If Filer is elected, the council will appoint a replacement to serve the final two years of his term.

Filer said he expects to spend $3,000 while waging a door-to-door campaign, while Tucker said he would spend between $25,000 and $30,000 in addition to walking districts.

Also running for mayor are Edward Loney, 44, and Willie Bobbitt, 46. Loney, who has campaigned unsuccessfully for the school board and council, is an equipment operator for the Los Angeles County Sanitation Department. Bobbitt said he is a supervisor for a construction company.

Stiff Challenge Faced

In another highly competitive spring campaign, Floyd James, 2nd District councilman since 1977 is challenged by Patricia Moore, president of the city's 1,500-member United Council of Block Clubs, and Hays , director of the Compton YMCA.

James, 44, a self-described real estate speculator who also runs a dry-cleaning business, said his campaign will center on the success of redevelopment--widened streets, new warehouses, businesses and apartments. But Moore and Hays said those successes have touched far too few residents of Compton.

"We have a lot of small businesses that are being left behind or moved out," said Moore, a part-time consultant to Rep. Mervyn M. Dymally (D-Compton). She also said most redevelopment jobs are not going to residents and that that contributes to teen-age unemployment and crime.

Hays, a 28-year-old graduate of Cal State Dominguez Hills, said redevelopment has been poorly planned. "We're going out to put up whatever we can, as quick as we can, wherever we can."

Third Race Tried

Moore, 36, is in her third race in five years for a council seat. She lost a mayoral campaign in 1981 and was defeated by Councilwoman Jane Robbins by only 78 votes in 1983.

In council District 3, incumbent Robert Adams Sr., a 53-year-old funeral home owner, has drawn five opponents in his bid for a third term.

Emily Hart-Holifield, 44, a nine-year trustee at Compton Community College, and Fred Cressel, 47, a longtime businessman and community activist, are well-known challengers.

Also running are Goodin, 37, owner of a maintenance and painting service, Cleophas Dunlap, a 48-year-old warehouse foreman, and Seth Francois.

Like James and Tucker, Adams has emphasized his role in the economic rejuvenation of segments of the city. A new shopping center downtown, the new hotel and hundreds of new dwellings are evidence of an aggressive City Council, he said.

Hart-Holifield, a special education teacher, was an early challenger, criticizing Adams a month ago for his alleged insensitivity to community concern in voting to allow a convalescent home for mentally ill adults at 930 W. Compton Blvd. Adams said the home will create dozens of jobs and be run by a firm with a good record.

'Could Talk All Day'

Cressel, owner of stationery supply and printing businesses, is also critical of Adams, who he said has voted for many redevelopment deals that have been too favorable to developers.

"I could talk all day about the things I don't feel are right," he said.

Goodin, vice president of the United Council of Block Clubs, also said Compton's redevelopment is more show than substance. "When there's building and our citizens are not getting the jobs and crime is rampant, that doesn't constitute progress," he said.

Dunlap, who has never before sought a public office, said he is running because Compton is poorly maintained and crime-ridden, and city officials do not seem to be working hard enough to change that. Dunlap would replace the city police with sheriff's deputies if crime is not curtailed, he said.

Francois could not be reached for comment.

Two-Candidate Races

Incumbents in three other city races each face a single opponent.

Wesley Fenderson Jr., 38, city attorney since 1980, is seeking another term as head of the city's 17-person legal department.

Frank Bazadier, 51, director of Southeast Legal Aid in Compton for seven years and now a Lynwood criminal attorney, is Fenderson's opponent for the $56,000-a-year job.

Fenderson, a deputy city attorney for seven years, was appointed to the top job in 1980 and easily won election in 1981.

City Clerk Charles Davis and Treasurer Wesley Sanders Jr. are each seeking a fourth four-year term. First elected in 1973, each makes about $37,000 a year.

Johnson, 28, an operations analyst at Fairchild Control Systems Co. in Manhattan Beach, is running for clerk. He claimed that Davis "is unable to dedicate a full-time effort to the job because he has so many business interests in the city."

Defends Work Habits

Davis said he owns a travel agency and pizza restaurant and spends some time at them, but is always available for clerking duties and does work a full week.

Sanders, 51, who as treasurer has invested the city's money for 12 years, also owns a meat market.

He is opposed by Delores Zurita, 48, director of Compton's Senior Nutrition Program for eight years. Operating the $400,000-a-year program with its 18 employees is solid experience to be treasurer, she said.

Zurita, who has worked for the election of Filer and other candidates, noted that Sanders was unopposed last election and said she is running to give voters a choice.

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