The biggest spender in the city's political history came up a loser Tuesday, as Bruce Unruh and his $133,000 campaign fund went down to defeat and set the stage for a May 12 runoff for the city treasurer's office.
A job that normally attracts little attention, the race for the treasurer's office overshadowed two City Council campaigns that ended with two incumbents being reelected.
Third in 3-Way Race
Unruh ran third in the three-way race, even with an infusion of $49,000 from his father, State Treasurer Jesse Unruh, in the final days of the campaign. That brought the total from the senior Unruh's campaign fund to $84,000.
Although final campaign reports will not be filed until July 31, the most recent report indicates that Unruh had raised $133,000--or about $82 a vote. The total is about four times as much as any candidate has ever spent in the city's history.
Incumbent Alice DeLong, who led the field, said she spent about $2,500, or $1.10 per vote. DeLong won 2,240 votes, or 40.5% of the total.
William MacAlpin, a corporate treasurer, came in second with 1,673, or 30.2%. MacAlpin said he spent about $8,000 on his campaign and political action committees put out an additional $5,000 on his behalf.
Unruh, 40, placed third with 1,625 votes, or 29.5%.
In other city races, incumbent council members Marcia Martin and Ronald Cawdrey won reelection in unofficial returns, although Martin won by only 10 votes and may face a recount. City Clerk John L. Oliver easily won a new term.
Voter turnout was 17.7%, which officials said was about normal.
Until this campaign, the biggest spender in a Redondo Beach election was former Mayor David Hayward, who built a campaign fund of $35,000 for his unsuccessful reelection bid in 1981.
But unlike Hayward and Unruh, Redondo Beach candidates who spent the most on their campaigns have usually won.
12 Years in Office
DeLong, 52, who has served for 12 years, and MacAlpin, 50, had expressed fears that Unruh's financial advantage would dictate the results in their race as well.
Unruh, who acknowledged at the start of the campaign that he intended to spend a lot of money, said then that he did not think campaign funds should be an issue. He said he needed to spend money to get his message out to voters and to overcome the incumbent's edge.
He hired a professional campaign consulting firm and blanketed the city with at least eight flyers. He ran on a platform of abolishing the 5% utility users' tax and vowed to continue his fight even if he lost the election.
He said Tuesday night, however, "I intend to pursue it, but I need the support of the city . . . The support wasn't there that I thought would be."
City Council members, who said the city cannot afford to lose the $3.5 million the tax generates, said Unruh was merely seizing on an emotional issue.
In the District 3 council race, incumbent Martin acknowledged that her 10-vote margin of victory over challenger Steven Colin "wasn't exactly a mandate."
She received 563 votes, or 50.4%, to Colin's 553, or 49.6%.
Second Close Call
During Martin's first campaign four years ago, she beat her opponent by fewer than 50 votes.
Martin, 35, a security specialist at TRW Inc., said the race was close because "I didn't work hard enough and he worked very hard.
"I think it's an indication that (the voters) don't know me well enough," she said. "I have a proven record of having done what the voters want."
Colin, 30, an attorney, said he had "a very, very respectable showing and I'm very pleased." He said he will ask for a recount but will not accept the seat if the vote changes in his favor.
He said he would ask for the recount only as a matter of principle. He complained the police officers who supported Martin may have intimidated his supporters by flashing their badges while campaigning for her.
Martin, a former Police Department employee, said off-duty police officers helped her campaign, but they did not wear their uniforms or show their badges.
The ballots of 12 voters were challenged on the ground that they were not properly registered, but only one of those was in District 3, said Deputy City Clerk Linda Gregory. She said she did not know what would happen if a recount favored Colin and he declined to accept the seat.
Colin, chairman of the Public Improvements Commission and a civic activist, said he would continue voicing his opinions to the City Council, "especially now because I know my views are shared by 50% of the people in District 3."
In the other council race, District 5 incumbent Cawdrey, 50, won 55.2% of the vote, turning back two challengers and avoiding a runoff.
Cawdrey, vice president of the Communications Workers of America Local 9400, was appointed to the council seat in 1982 after Gene King resigned. Cawdrey was elected to a four-year term the following year and survived a 1985 recall effort.
Cawdrey had 682 votes in Tuesday's election. Deloris Thiessen, 70, a homemaker, received 403 votes, or 32.7%, and James J. Isaac, 56, who retired from his plumbing business nine years ago, got 148 votes, or 12%.
Thiessen, who led the recall effort against Cawdrey and sought the seat when King vacated it, said Tuesday after seeing the final results, "What can I say? The people spoke."
Isaac could not be reached for comment.
In the city clerk's race, Dawn Ayers--who is Treasurer DeLong's niece--surprised many politicians and local officials, including City Clerk Oliver, by mounting a stronger fight than they expected for the clerk's office. Oliver received 3,840 votes to Ayers' 1,651.
"I really expected her to be just bothersome, but this young lady worked very hard which caused me to work hard," Oliver said.
He said his support for Unruh may have hurt him, but in the clerk's race, "the nepotism issue was as serious as the money issue" in the treasurer's race.
Several city politicians said they supported Ayers but they did not come out for her publicly against the well-entrenched Oliver.
Ayers, 27, a financial analyst, said she was pleased that she received 30% of the vote on her first attempt at an elected office and said it is a sign that residents are not completely happy with the job Oliver is doing.
No changes are expected on the City Council since both incumbents apparently will return to office, but the council's longstanding feud with Mayor Barbara J. Doerr may be aggravated by the campaign. Cawdrey and Martin complained bitterly this week about Doerr's support of Thiessen and Colin. They said the mayor knew the challengers were using false information.
Doerr denied that she helped either candidate with campaign literature or platforms, other than allowing her photo or endorsement to be used.
Doerr and the City Council frequently bicker, although Martin has sided with the mayor more often than the other four council members.
After Tuesday's election, Martin said, "It's going to be harder for the mayor because I was on her side and I'm not any more because she supported Colin and she did it in a dirty way."
Martin retracted her statement almost immediately, saying she would not carry out a personal vendetta in bitterness.
"I'm talking out of revenge," she said. "Nothing will really change. I'll still side with Barbara if she's right. . . . The benefit of the city is still the bottom line that we are there for."
Doerr said, "This City Council has made my role as mayor and serving the city as difficult as possible so I don't see how they could make it any more difficult."