Santa Fe Springs : Election Goes to Fuentes

Al Fuentes will remain city councilman after a written ruling issued by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge Wednesday put him ahead of challenger Ruben Elizalde by five votes.

Judge David A. Thomas, who presided over a four-day hearing, ruled that eight out of 350 contested ballots from a court-ordered recount held last week should be counted. Elizalde picked up five votes and Fuentes gained three votes. That gave Fuentes 684 votes and Elizalde 679 votes.

Peter M. Thorson, an attorney representing the city and City Clerk Hazel Thomas, had argued during the hearing that the city clerk followed strict procedures in conducting the April 8 election and a subsequent recount on April 11. "The important thing is that the clerk followed all the correct procedures set out in law," Thorson said of the judge's decision.

Attorney Irving Feffer, representing Fuentes, said he was "pleased to hear the bottom line was Fuentes won and Elizalde lost. Justice was served."

Elizalde and his attorney, Julia Sylva, could not be reached for comment.

The flip-flop election has seen the winner change three times. Fuentes was the unofficial winner election night with two more votes than Elizalde. However, Elizalde came out ahead by one vote the next day after the official canvass. Fuentes paid for a recount and was installed as a councilman in mid-April after he edged Elizalde by two votes. Elizalde then filed suit against the city, asking for a second recount and that all contested ballots be viewed by a judge.

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