Beverly Hills voters Tuesday rejected first-term incumbent Annabelle Heiferman in an upset hailed by incoming Mayor Charlotte Spadaro as “a tremendous victory” reflecting public discontent with the policies of the incumbent City Council.
Instead, the voters picked two political newcomers, Robert K. Tanenbaum, an attorney, who won 3,717 votes (29%), and Maxwell Hillary Salter, owner of a chain of clothing stores, who received 3,462 votes (26%).
Heiferman, the only first-term incumbent to be voted out of office since 1962, ended up in fourth place with 2,718 votes (20%), trailing challenger Rose Norton, who had 2,822 (22%). Thirty-four percent of the electorate voted, City Clerk Jean Ishijima said.
Speculation Set Off
Heiferman’s defeat set off speculation that voters did not want more women on the council. Three men and two women will be sworn in next week; three women and two men make up the current council.
But local politicians said other factors had played a part, including Tanenbaum’s criticism of the status quo and Salter’s appeal for an end to squabbling on the council. Both men also mobilized several dozen supporters to walk precincts on their behalf.
“It’s tough to run against the Establishment,” said Tanenbaum, who trailed Salter and Heiferman in campaign spending and contributions.
Still, he said, the voters responded to his charges that the council was out of touch with public concerns about government spending, crime and commercial intrusion into residential areas.
“They didn’t want to spend $200 million on a Civic Center when the schools were going bankrupt,” Tanenbaum said.
He said he would urge the new council to conduct public hearings to review the spending plans on all major projects, including the planned new quarters for the fire and police departments and the library.
“I understand that every civil servant has his wish list, but you don’t give them a blank check,” said the 6-foot-4 former district attorney, who invited a few officials attending his victory part to join him in a friendly basketball game at the Beverly Hills YMCA.
“I’d like to get a lot of these people under the boards,” he said with a laugh.
While much of Tanenbaum’s support came from supporters of the so-called anti-Establishment faction in city politics, Salter drew upon a broad base of obligations built up over 30 years of charity work and involvement in Temple Beth Am, a leading synagogue.
“There were hundreds of volunteers,” he said. “That was the most gratifying part. Some rang doorbells, some addressed envelopes. People I haven’t seen for 20 years, some of them.”
In his campaign, the goateed Salter stressed his business know-how and his experience at reconciling differences, especially within the synagogue, where he served as president of the sometimes fractious congregation.
Still, he said, an anti-woman backlash probably played an important part in Heiferman’s defeat.
“There was a fear that all of a sudden there would be four women, and here you two guys on the opposite end of the spectrum get elected,” he said.
Although many of his supporters endorsed Heiferman as well, Salter said the council had embarked on too many capital improvements at one time, including the Civic Center project, two major parking structures and the renovation of Roxbury Park.
“I am a nonpolitical person who will bring to the office a background of fiscal responsibility and success at whatever endeavor I attempted,” he said. “There was a feeling that the city of Beverly Hills is entitled to a person who could read a financial statement.”
Still, he said, the Civic Center project must proceed, since the existing City Hall was built in 1933 and is overcrowded.
The project has already been trimmed by dropping a performing arts center, he said, but new police, fire and library facilities must be built.
An up-to-date communications facility in the new police headquarters could cut response time from the current average of about four minutes by as much a third, he said.
Spadaro, who was frequently a lonely voice on the short end of 4-1 votes on key issues, said she saw the vote as “a tremendous victory for us, because our team came in No. 1.”
She said she views Tanenbaum as an ally on key issues, including the Civic Center, and said Salter brought with him a new perspective as a newcomer.
“I think it does reflect a dissatisfaction with some of the decisions of the majority of the council,” she said. “These are people who are not connected with those decisions.”
She said many of Salter’s supporters helped her own campaign two years ago. “He’s certainly a businessman, and that’s going to be very helpful,” she said. “If he’s just smart and independent, which I believe he is, that’s all we need for good decision-making.”
Both she and Heiferman saw an anti-woman bias in the voting. Still, Heiferman acknowledged that “there comes a time when the citizens want a change. It was an anti-council vote.”
The defeated incumbent said she would continue her efforts to raise more money for the financially strapped school system and guarantee the completion of the new Civic Center and a senior housing project that she sponsored.
“I’m very proud of my decisions on the council,” she said.
Norton, who led a successful fight in 1984 to block the building of medium-rise hotels in the city’s business district, said she would leave public life, having shown that a low-cost campaign can win more votes than an incumbent.
“I’ve proven that not only rich old people can run,” she said. “I want to see young people get involved, that younger people can do it without spending a fortune. You’ve got to learn the issues and you’ve got to take a stand. If you just say everything is wonderful you’re not going to win.”
Although the rival faction gained some strength in Tuesday’s election, outgoing Mayor Edward I. Brown said the vote reflected dissatisfaction with Heiferman’s image rather than criticism of the council’s policies.
“She did a very good job, but she didn’t project well, and that hurt her,” he said.
In a campaign devoid of overwhelming issues, he said, the public’s concern about the schools provided fertile ground for the challengers to appeal for a change.
“The people who are very satisfied never come out and vote,” he said. “It’s the negative people or the ‘antis’ that come out. You’re always fighting the apathy.”
He said the expects Tanenbaum and Salter to go through a learning process after which “they will realize how much they don’t know, and pretty soon things will start moving pretty good.”
Still, he said, Spadaro would have to overcome the hard feelings that have resulted from the contentiousness of the last two years.
18 of 18 precincts FINAL
Vote % Robert Tanenbaum 3,717 28.5 Maxwell H. Salter 3,462 26.5 Rose Norton 2,822 21.6 Annabelle Heiferman (Inc.) 2,718 20.8 M. Cynthia Rose 255 2.0 Eugene Quash 78 0.6
(Voter turnout 34.0%)