With city council elections only five days away, residents across the Southeast area are being bombarded with last-minute mailers and get-out-the-vote phone calls as 107 candidates in 17 cities scramble for support.
Campaign spending in Norwalk and Cerritos continues on a record pace with incumbents and challengers alike pumping thousands of dollars into hotly contested races.
At least three candidates in Norwalk and one in Cerritos have raised more than $20,000. In tiny Commerce, the mayor has already raised and spent more than $20,000--nearly twice the amount spent by any of the other four candidates.
Trash, not money, has become a burning issue in Bell in the campaign’s final days. A proposed hazardous-waste incineration plant in nearby Vernon prompted three of the seven Bell council candidates to send flyers to residents warning of potential health threats from the plant. Others in the race, however, have charged the three candidates with using scare tactics to win votes Tuesday.
And in Paramount the mayor is asking for votes as an expression of support for the council’s year-old decision to tax the city’s popular swap meet. The operators of the swap meet have been active in the campaign against the mayor, Charles R. Weldon.
Few of the races from Whittier to Hawaiian Gardens have had the intensity of Norwalk’s.
IN NORWALK, spending by candidates in the election underscores the fact that the race has been the costliest and most bitterly fought in the city’s 29-year history. The presence of two former Norwalk officials in the race--William H. Kraus, 47, former city administrator, and Grace Napolitano, 48, a former member of the city’s International Friendship Commission--has triggered the record spending. Kraus and Napolitano were forced from city positions while Marcial (Rod) Rodriguez, Cecil N. Green and Lou Banas, all of whom are seeking reelection, were on the council.
Kraus and Napolitano deny they are seeking political revenge. But Banas admitted that without the two ousted city officials in the race, “the incumbents would walk in with relative ease.”
Instead, the incumbents have been pushed into an expensive and accusation-filled campaign in the city of 85,232, where no council member has lost a bid for reelection since 1958.
The latest campaign finance reports on file say that, as of March 22, Green, 61, had received $38,023 in cash contributions, nearly four times as much as the previous record for campaign contributions set in 1982. It is also more than any other candidate in the Southeast area has received in the 1986 election campaign. Green, who is seeking a fourth term, had spent $17,840 as of March 22.
While Green has been the top fund-raiser, Mayor Rodriguez, 53, has spent more than any of the other eight candidates in the race. Records show he had raised $30,632 and spent $22,684--more than double the previous record of $9,056 in 1982. Between Feb. 23 and March 22, the mayor raised $13,958 and spent $10,437.
Both Rodriguez and Banas are seeking second terms.
As of March 22, Napolitano had raised $22,591 and spent $19,105, while Kraus had raised $2,824 and spent $2,143. Meanwhile, Banas, 39, had received $16,352 and spent $8,539. The only other candidates who had raised or spent more than $500 were Robert A. Espinosa, 32, and Guy W. Churchouse, 39. Espinosa had raised $6,881 and spent $4,463, while Churchouse had raised $1,190 and spent $550.
Other candidates in the race are Louis C. Krebs Jr., 41, and William Brady, 48.
NEXT DOOR IN CERRITOS, where the campaign has focused on slowing growth, a crowded field of 15 candidates has also pushed spending to record levels, with Councilman Alex J. Beanum, 50, leading the way.
Challengers to Beanum and incumbents Diana Needham and Barry Rabbitt are pitching a common theme of change in City Hall. They contend that the council has lost touch with its 55,000 residents and the needs of the city--street repairs, more soccer fields and rising crime.
The incumbents are meeting the challenge with money and a campaign that says their stewardship of the booming growth around Los Cerritos Mall and Cerritos Auto Square has made the city one of the state’s wealthiest.
City records show that, as of March 22, Beanum, a two-term councilman, had raised $24,100 and spent $21,744, including $9,412 on printing and mailing between Feb. 23 and March 22.
Needham, 39, who is mayor and, like Beanum, is seeking a third term, had raised $14,604 and spent $12,951. Rabbitt, 48, who is after an unprecedented fifth term, had raised $7,649 as of March 22, almost all of it in the past month. About $2,400 of the contributions came from real estate and development interests. So far he has spent $3,457.
Among the challengers, Ravinder Mehta, 26, Ann B. Joynt, 46, and Alan Ulrich, 36, are the biggest spenders.
First-time candidate Mehta, an Orange County deputy district attorney, had raised $13,201, about $10,700 in loans to himself. He has spent $12,536, including $9,518 on an Orange County political consulting firm that is directing his campaign.
Joynt, a former planning commissioner, had raised $7,775, with $1,000 coming from real estate and building interests. She had spent $3,343. Ulrich, a customer service agent for United Parcel Service, had raised $5,285, including $4,000 in loans to himself, and spent $4,322.
The rest of the Cerritos candidates raised and spent less than $3,000. They include: Paul W. Bowlen, 45, a high school government teacher; Charles K. Harner, 52, a retired customs agent; Gordon H. Lewis, 63, a commercial real estate broker; Sal L. Malonzo, 56, a development assistant; Enola Stephens, 57, a retired schoolteacher; Angel Soto, 49, an airline employee representative; Richard L. Taylor, 44, a commercial artist; Frank Vallefuoco, 41, a manufacturing engineer, and Alfred S. Wells, 51, a federal police officer.
IN COMMERCE, the race for two City Council seats has become relatively expensive, considering that five candidates are courting only 3,900 voters, half of whom turned out for the last municipal election.
At issue in the largely industrial and Latino city is the hiring of recently retired Public Works Director Manny Jimenez to a special two-year, part-time job for which he is paid $35,000 annually. Under the terms of the agreement, Jimenez works only 90 days a year so he can still draw his maximum retirement pay. Those voting to hire Jimenez included Councilmen James B. Dimas Sr. and Lawrence Maese, both of whom are seeking reelection. The three challengers have been sharply critical of the move.
In his bid for a fourth term, Dimas has already raised and spent more than $21,000--3 1/2 times what he had anticipated. Dimas was appointed mayor last year by his four council colleagues.
Dimas’ amount is twice as much as the $10,475 raised so far by a joint committee backing challengers Ruth R. Aldaco and Ruben C. Batres. They are running as a team opposed to the current administration, although voters need not cast ballots for both. The pair agreed to run together to pool resources and cut campaign costs.
More modest amounts have been collected by Maese, who has $3,900, and challenger Mary R. Guerrero, who has $645. Maese, appointed to the council in late 1984, is running for his first full term.
City election officials said this week that Dimas will be asked to amend his campaign statement, however, because it does not make clear exactly who contributed to him. Although Dimas filed a disclosure form, it merely reported that he was given money by his campaign committee, but nowhere does it identify who made those contributions.
In an interview this week, Dimas said he was under the impression that each contributor’s name--on file in a computer operated by the committee--had been turned over to election officials.
Dimas said most of his contributions have come from Commerce residents. But he, Maese and the Aldaco-Batres team each received at least $500 from The Industrial Council, an organization of city business groups.
Challenger Aldaco said this week that the Fair Political Practices Commission should investigate Dimas because state law requires that candidates identify every contributor who gives $100 or more.
“All I know is he said in the (news)paper he would disclose every penny. . . . And not one penny is disclosed,” Aldaco said.
IN BELL, a proposed trash plant in neighboring Vernon has become an 11th-hour issue for the residents of this blue-collar city of 26,000.
Three candidates running as a slate in Bell sent a flyer to residents calling for a petition drive to persuade air-quality authorities to hold public hearings before approving a Vernon incineration plant for hazardous wastes. The plant, which would handle infectious hospital wastes, galley scraps from foreign ships and various police materials, still must be approved by a series of local, state and federal agencies before it goes to the Vernon council.
In their mailer, Bell Councilman Jay B. Price, 70, and challengers George G. Mirabal, 36, and Rolf Janssen, 30, urged residents to “pressure” the South Coast Air Quality Management District to hold plant safety hearings, which are currently not scheduled. Price, who is seeking his eighth term, and the two challengers are running as a slate known as Citizens for a Better Bell.
But others in the race have charged that the slate is unnecessarily scaring residents with the issue.
“Before they start scaring people, they should go to the city of Vernon and find out what’s going on,” said James J. Jordan, 41, one of four other candidates in the race. Another challenger, Michael McCabe, 32, called the slate’s mailer on the trash plant an “unscrupulous campaign practice.”
George Francis Bass, 55, said the slate has left the impression that they are the only candidates concerned about the plant. “I’m 100% for Bell,” said Bass, who is also Vernon’s fire chief. “As a resident, we should be knowledgeable and made aware of the potential hazards. . . .”
Donna L. Caddy, 44, a councilwoman from 1980 to 1984, said she opposes the plant for safety reasons.
IN PARAMOUNT, a council decision last June to levy a daily fee or tax on the swap meet has become a hot issue among the seven candidates, including two incumbents. Councilman Weldon, who is seeking his fourth term and who voted for the swap meet tax, is calling the election a showdown between himself and the operator of the outdoor flea market, Modern Development Co.
Before the tax, the city had collected about $45,000 a year in business fees. But the council, led by Weldon, 53, voted to charge Modern Development $1 a day for each vendor as well as charging each vendor $1 a day. The city and Modern Development have been locked in a court battle ever since. As a member of the council, Weldon is a plaintiff in the case.
Challengers Manuel Guillen, 51, and Henry Harkema, a retired supervisor with the Paramount Water District, have sided with Weldon, believing Modern Development should pay the city.
Four candidates, including incumbent Councilman John A. Mies, 72, and challengers Ted J. Mosier, 65, Rich DeBie, 64, and Mike Pete Delivuk, 60, said they believe that Weldon, who is mayor, is merely using the swap meet issue to further his own cause. Mies voted against the tax.
The following is a look at the rest of the council races and the candidates, as well as one school board election in Paramount and two non-council races in Signal Hill:
ARTESIA--Two seats, three candidates, including incumbents Dennis R. Fellows, 43, an accountant seeking his fourth term, and James Van Horn, 62, a consultant also seeking his fourth term. The lone challenger is Marcy Delgado, 27, personnel director for the Bellflower Unified School District and former Artesia assistant city manager.
BELLFLOWER--Three seats, nine candidates, including incumbents James Earle Christo, a businessman; John Ansdell, 66, a businessman, and Ray O’Neal, 48, senior industrial engineer with Northrop Corp. The three were elected in 1982. They are challenged by LaVerne Smith, 49, a real estate counselor; Ken Cleveland, 53, a businessman and a former city councilman; Jean A. Engelbach, 39, a businesswoman; Ralph Ball, 59, a city planning commissioner; William J. Pendleton, 44, a supervisor for Southern California Edison Co., and Roger Kelly, 41, real estate counselor.
CUDAHY--Three seats, six candidates, including incumbents Faye Dunlap, 58, who has served two terms, Lynwood Evans, 58, and Joseph Grafio, 73, who have both served two terms. They are challenged by Valerie Hansen, 63, the Planning Commission chairwoman; Tom Thurman, 31, a teacher, and Bill Colon, 61, a political consultant.
HAWAIIAN GARDENS--Two seats, four candidates, including incumbents Lupe Cabrera and Jack Myers. The challengers are Donald Schultze, former city councilman who was defeated in 1984, and Kathy Navejas, a community activist.
HUNTINGTON PARK--Three seats, seven candidates, including William P. Cunningham, 47, a council member since 1978; Jim Roberts, 50, a council member since 1970, and Herbert A. Hennes Jr., 61, a council member since 1970. All but one of the challengers have run for council seats in the past. They are Don B. Porter, 53, an engineer who ran in 1984; Raul R. Perez, 43, a loan officer who ran in 1978, 1980 and 1984; Alan Kartsman, 30, president of Kartsman Realty, who ran for the council in 1982, and Louie Aragon, 23, vice president of Kartsman Realty.
LAKEWOOD--Two seats, four candidates, including incumbents Larry Van Nostran, 52, and Jackie Rynerson, 64. The challengers are Roy E. Pepper, 65, a corporate financial executive, and Jack Adkins, 51, accountant and investment counselor.
LA MIRADA--Three seats, five candidates, including incumbents Lou Piltz, 64, a maintenance and equipment manager for a supermarket chain who is seeking his third term; Ken Jones, 54, a businessman who is seeking a second term, and Wayne Rew, 50, dean of student services and counseling at Cerritos College, who is seeking his third term. The challengers are Art Leslie, 43, a businessman, and Mark Oertel, 27, an attorney.
PARAMOUNT SPECIAL SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION--One seat, four candidates. Candidates to replace Sandra Paisley, who died in September, are her widower, James Paisley, a building inspector; Alex Rivera, an administrative intern; Ken Teeples, a computer program analyst, and Marianne Papp, a systems management consultant.
PICO RIVERA--Three seats, four candidates, including incumbents John Chavez, 54, who is seeking his third term; Gil De La Rosa, 59, who is seeking a second term, and Al Natividad, 59, who is also seeking a second term. The lone challenger is Richard Mercardo Sr., 51, a building inspector running for the council for a third time.
SANTA FE SPRINGS--Two seats, seven candidates, including Ronald Kernes, 47, who has been on the council since 1978. The challengers are Ruben Elizalde, 31, a teacher at Pioneer High School who ran for the council in 1982 and 1984; Al Fuentes, 57, city planning commissioner; George Minnehan, 48, truck driver; Edward Perez, 31, consultant engineer; Susan Perez, 30, a businesswoman who is also Edward Perez’s wife, and Gerald (Dean) Dirksen, 53, a city planning commissioner.
SIGNAL HILL--Two seats, six candidates, including incumbents Louis Dare, 56, who has been on the council for four years, and Gerard Goedhart, 34, a director of administrative services for the City of Los Alamitos, who is seeking a second term. The challengers are Sara Dodds, 43, a design consultant; Richard Love, 46, housing consultant; Frank McCoy, 42, retired Signal Hill police sergeant, and Clyde Key, 50, contractor.
Signal Hill City Clerk Kris Beard, 30, is also up for reelection, challenged by Valerie G. Williams, who is self-employed. In the city treasurer’s race, incumbent Gayle Girard, 49, is challenged by Edward Williams, 43, a banker and former planning commissioner.
SOUTH GATE--Three seats, four candidates, including William H. DeWitt, 44, a businessman who has been on the council for six years; Odell Snavely, 67, a businessman and a council member for seven years, and Herbert Cranton, 62, a community relations representative for Southern California Rapid Transit District and member of the council since 1982. The lone challenger is Dorothea M. Lombardo, 62, a free-lance writer who ran for council in 1982 and 1984.
WHITTIER--Two seats, five candidates, including incumbents Victor Lopez, 57, who is running for his third term, and Gene Chandler, 62, who is running for his second term. The challengers are Romana Pokorny, a Rio Hondo College student and dental assistant; Clifford W. Slater, 55, a chauffeur, and Joseph Marsico, 43, a community activist whose latest cause is bringing to the city motorized buses that look like trolleys.
Times staff writers William Nottingham, Ralph Cipriano, Carmen Valencia and Lee Harris contributed to this report.