5-Way Council Race in L.B. : Incumbent Harwood Puts His Record on the Line

Times Staff Writer

Councilman Warren Harwood, once the quintessential political underdog, now finds himself in an unfamiliar position. The Establishment has begun to like him--or at least to support him.

Outspent about 7 to 1 when he won his District 9 seat in 1982, Harwood has already raised $23,000 for this campaign--2 1/2 times the combined total of his four opponents.

Shunned by the city's rich and powerful in his first run for council in 1978 and again four years later, he has gained support this time from firefighter and police unions, from major developers and Mayor Ernie Kell, and from such Establishment stalwarts as the Board of Realtors, the Grand Prix Assn., Douglas Aircraft Co. and a majority of the Harbor Commission.

As recently as this week, Harwood, 46, was still cultivating his image as a political outsider who fights for North Long Beach, regardless of the consequences. "Downtown business interests," irritated by his independence, have moved their own candidate into the district to run against him, he insisted.

But, as Harwood's stack of endorsements and campaign contributions has grown, he has also begun to emphasize what he sees as his ability to work in City Hall and with Long Beach powers that be.

"People who had no basis to judge me four years ago are now finding my actions compatible with those of the community at large," he said.

Citywide Scope

Harwood's support for expansion of the Convention Center is one example of his citywide scope of interest, he said.

His opponents, however, say Harwood's fund-raising strength shows only a hedging of bets by those who no longer doubt that the councilman, a tireless door-to-door campaigner, can win an election.

But, they insist, Harwood has littered the 9th District with broken promises and is vulnerable. They say the area's crime rate is high and rising, and that Harwood is ineffective in City Hall.

Harwood's challengers on the April 8 primary ballot are Ralph R. Howe, 46, a retired Downey fire chief who moved to North Long Beach last fall; Jay Cain, 45, a key punch operator and the architect of a failed campaign to recall Harwood in 1983; Johnny M. Williams, 42, a retired Army sergeant who works as a non-teaching staff assistant at Hughes Junior High School, and Carlos M. Barraza, 59, an insurance salesman who garnered 65 votes in a council run in 1982.

Council members, as part-time city employees, are paid $12,600 annually and receive insurance and retirement benefits.

The major financial backer of both Howe and Cain has been Russell Rubley, the 13-year incumbent whom Harwood routed in 1982. By Feb. 22, Rubley had contributed $2,000 to Howe's $8,358 campaign fund and $900 to Cain's $1,690 fund, according to disclosure statements.

Walked District 3 Times

Rubley's $2,000 contribution paid for a public opinion survey, a copy of which was given to Rubley, said Howe. Cain said Rubley made the survey available to him, but he did not need it because he has walked the district three times since 1983 and knows what people think.

In an interview last week, Rubley said: "I'm supporting several people. Harwood hasn't done anything."

Williams had raised $135 by late February, and Barraza claimed no campaign contributions.

Howe, a political novice whose many campaign signs have made his candidacy highly visible, insists that Harwood is in trouble. He said that no fewer than seven of the city's nine council members have offered him encouragement and a council majority has been "very supportive." However, none has contributed funds, he said.

"They don't like (Harwood)," said Howe. "In fact the first person who really asked me to come up here to get involved in this race was Jan Hall."

Councilwoman Hall said she did encourage Howe, an old friend, to run for the council, but not specifically against Harwood. "I stay out of other district races, period," she said.

Howe said that others, including some downtown businessmen and many District 9 residents, urged him to take on Harwood.

'We Get the Crumbs'

"I honestly think that, due to Mr. Harwood's inability to get along with other council people, he really can't get us our share up here in North Long Beach," said Howe. "I've talked to well over 5,000 people and they feel we're stepchildren up here--that we get the crumbs that are tossed to us."

Harwood said that his popularity among council colleagues has its ups and downs, but is of little importance.

"I have a job to do and being liked downtown doesn't necessarily mean I'm getting it done. It may mean just the opposite," he said. "And being endorsed by the mayor does indicate a good measure of effectiveness."

Mayor Kell has contributed $750 to Harwood's campaign and hosted one of his fund-raisers, said Harwood.

Like Howe, Cain and Williams insisted that North Long Beach is often forgotten at City Hall.

But Barraza, Cain and Williams all said that the 9th District does not need the newly arrived Howe to speak for it. Barraza said he has lived in North Long Beach since 1967. Cain said he is a 16-year resident of the area and Williams said he has lived there since 1975.

"A carpetbagger is not one of the things I'm very fond of," said Williams.

'I'm Not a Parasite'

Barraza said he was running "because I love this city and I'm not a carpetbagger, I'm not a parasite . . . and I'm not an opportunist either."

Cain pointed out that Harwood had lived in North Long Beach for only a few months when he first ran against Rubley in 1978.

"I'm tired of all these people like Harwood moving into the district just to run," said Cain. "They'll never have the district at heart."

Harwood agreed that Howe's recent move to the district is an important campaign issue.

"He is a hand-picked candidate supported by people with outside interests," said Harwood. "I think this defeats the whole concept of district elections."

But Howe said he has received "not one dime" from the downtown interests that first encouraged him to run. Only two of his contributions have been for more than $200, and they were from within the 9th District, he said. (Howe said that last year he did receive contributions of about $200 each from Harbor Bank directors James Gray and James Willingham.)

Harwood also claims that Howe has not met the basic residency requirements to be a candidate in the 9th District.

Howe never lived in the Orange Avenue house he listed on a Nov. 1 voter registration document, Harwood maintained. And Howe did not move into his Harding Street home by Dec. 11, as was required to run for council, Harwood said.

Howe said he moved some furniture into an Orange Avenue house he owns, but never actually lived there. He moved into the Harding Street house by the end of November, well before the deadline, he said.

Turning the residency issue on Harwood, Howe questioned whether Harwood has lived in the 9th District for all of the last two years. Harwood, who resides with his wife at the Oakwood Garden Apartments on Atlantic Avenue, said he has lived within the district since 1977. If Howe is saying otherwise, "then he's a liar," Harwood said.

For the most part, Harwood's challengers seem to be running against him, rather than on a specific platform.

Cain said he was running because of Harwood's failures.

Barraza, a Harwood supporter in 1978 and 1982, said Harwood has been a disappointment. He did say, however, that he wanted "pornographic material" removed from sidewalks near schools, would work to discontinue bilingual ballots, and would push for more low-rent housing for senior citizens.

Williams said: "Right now my plans are to get elected. After that I have a month before I take office to gather me an agenda."

Harwood, a career public administrator who analyzes legislation and coordinates grant applications for the Los Angeles County Facilities Management Department, said he is emphasizing his council accomplishments.

He points to a new police substation at Sherer Park, about 10 blocks south of the district. He said the substation, opened last year, allows patrolmen in North Long Beach to spend more time on their beats and less time transporting suspects to the downtown jail seVerAL miles away.

Another accomplishment, Harwood said, has been city approval of a $500,000 center for senior citizens that is under design for Houghton Park. In addition, Harwood said he led a drive to require a special city permit for businesses to sell alcoholic beverages.

Howe and Cain, however, said construction of the Sherer Park police facility does not help North Long Beach, which had a 6.6% increase in major crime last year. Before the substation was built, police officers would use a small office at Houghton Park to fill out reports, and their presence undoubtedly deterred criminals, they said.

Harwood said the Houghton Park police office "may have been comforting" to those who lived nearby, but it in no way compares with the increased patrol efficiency the new substation has brought to a much larger area.

The councilman also said that while crime was up last year, it has decreased since he took office. Police Department statistics show that reports of serious crime in District 9 were down from 3,333 incidents in 1982 to 3,238 in 1985. Total incidents, including misdemeanors, were also down--from 4,613 to 4,587.

Harwood has also been rapped for what his opponents say is his backpedaling on a pledge to gain rent control.

Howe said Harwood's refusal to support residents of Villa Park, a 432-coach mobile home community, in rent disputes with their landlord has hurt him badly.

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