Los Angeles City Council President Pat Russell, one of the city's most durable and influential elected officials, was forced into a runoff Tuesday, as her controversial record on growth and development cost her an election victory for the first time in her career.
Russell was the only one of six incumbent council members up for reelection Tuesday who did not win outright. Instead, she heads for a June 2 confrontation with the closest of her five rivals, planning consultant Ruth Galanter, a political newcomer who rode to prominence much as Russell did 18 years ago--as a darling of middle-class protesters angered by major development in their neighborhoods.
Russell blamed her showing on a false characterization of her record and she vowed to make a strong comeback in the runoff.
"The five people (running against her) had great pleasure bashing me," she said. "We saw the negative energy manifest and grow."
Russell stumbled despite the backing of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who blamed Russell's showing on a hostile press. "Pat Russell is one of the finest elected officials in the country and if we could get the press to carry both sides of the story, not just her opponents' . . . she would win going away in June."
But Bradley's prestige suffered more than one setback. The candidate he backed in the open 10th District council race, Homer Broome Jr., ran second to former State Sen. Nate Holden in a field of 14 candidates. Broome and Holden will fight it out in the runoff.
Bradley praised Broome's showing and vowed that "from now on until election day, you will see a campaign by Homer Broome such as you have never seen before."
Meanwhile, Holden, told his cheering supporters to hang on until June 2 runoff and urged "that we come together in this ball game and win. This is our World Series."
Galanter, 46, who has never run for office before, said she was "very excited about the runoff" in the 6th District. "I 'm looking forward to talking to more voters than I did in this campaign . . . I don't expect to be sleeping late tomorrow."
Galanter, with help from neighborhood and environmental groups in and out of the district, emerged as the challenger with the broadest support. She raised more money than any of the other candidates against Russell, including a contribution from producer and liberal activist Norman Lear.
However, her $32,000 in contributions was but a fraction of Russell's $262,000. Galanter also received help from the League of Conservation Voters, which estimated spending $8,500 on her behalf.
The 15% turnout was typically low for the elections, which affected nearly half the 15-member Los Angeles City Council as well as five of seven city school board seats and four of seven seats on the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees. Elsewhere in the city, incumbents Richard Alatorre in the 14th District, Hal Bernson in the 12th District, Robert Farrell in the 8th, John Ferraro in the 4th and Joel Wachs in the 2nd all were victorious in races against generally unknown and under-financed challengers.
In the 6th District, running from Westchester to Venice to Crenshaw, the race presented Russell with the toughest political challenge of her career on the council.
Led by Galanter and Venice journalist Patrick McCartney, Russell's opponents also included Rimmon C. Fay, 57, a marine biologist and life guard; Salvatore Grammatico, 34, a real estate agent, and businesswoman Virginia Taylor Hughes, 41.
Focus on Growth Issue
Russell's opposition last year to Proposition U, the popular anti-growth initiative that passed overwhelmingly in her district, gave rise to the belief that she had fallen out of step with her constituents.
Russell, 63, has been the grand dame of the City Council. A confidant of the mayor, twice elected City Council president, mountain climber, marathon runner and grandmother, she went into the race with more money than all of her opponents combined and a list of political endorsements extending from Bradley to Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky.
Nevertheless, Russell was vulnerable. Increasingly identified with a clique of powerful real estate developers and lobbyists, Russell had alienated a number of her constituents and had became a target of the kind of neighborhood-based reform movement that swept her into office in 1969.
But there was more at stake than her career.
Russell was a stalking horse for Bradley, her friend and ally, in an election that tested the popularity of the mayor's policies on the crucial issues of growth and development.
Alliance With Bradley
The contest pitted the Bradley-Russell preference for measured growth against the strength of a movement, manifested by Proposition U, that warns of the city strangling in its own congestion and pollution.
Bradley, squarely behind Russell, campaigned for her in the week before the election.
The campaign against her focused on her role in massive new development in the district--four projects adding up to several million square feet of offices, stores and homes.
The largest of the developments, just north of Westchester and impinging on the Ballona Wetlands, the city's only coastal wildlife refuge, would amount to a new town. Called Playa Vista, it would be built on 800 to 900 acres of open land with a projected population of about 30,000.
Russell argued that Playa Vista and the other projects are substantially smaller than they could have been had she not been a forceful advocate of controlled development.
She pointed to her coastal transportation ordinance, which became a model of a citywide law and the best expression, to date, of Bradley's philosophy of balanced growth. The ordinance permits development to proceed in heavily congested parts of town, but only if developers agree to pay for transportation improvements--from widened streets to new rail lines--necessary to handle the traffic their projects create.
In the largely black 10th District, where residents have been without a City Council member for six months, the race started with no clear-cut favorite. As the campaign wound down, it became a contest between the best-known candidate, Holden, and three well-connected challengers--with some potential spoilers in the background.
Holden relied heavily on his identification with and support from county Supervisor Kenneth Hahn. Holden is on leave from Hahn's staff. Broome, a former public works commissioner, depended largely on the political backing of Bradley, who once represented the 10th District on the council. Broome was able to raise more money than any of the other candidates.
Links to Machines
But in a campaign where crime and economic revitalization were major issues, Holden and Broome had to fend off accusations that they were tied to political machines that only moved into the 10th District when former Councilman David Cunningham resigned last fall.
Holden and Broome moved into the district or re-established residences there last year, and their lesser-known and under-financed rivals hammered away at them at political forums and in a blizzard of last-minute mailings as "carpetbaggers."
Broome made much of his ties to Bradley and emphasized his record as a former police officer who could tackle the crime problem. The 10th stretches southwest of downtown Los Angeles, across the mid-city neighborhoods and into Palms, an area that was added in the recent redistricting.
New Role for Wachs
In the San Fernando Valley, Wachs overcame difficulties posed by a new district and by ugly campaign literature that accused him of promoting activities that spread AIDS. A mailer sent to 22,000 homes in the district attacked Wachs for serving as grand marshal of the West Hollywood Gay Pride Parade in 1983.
After redistricting exiled him from the liberal, cosmopolitan constituency he had represented for 16 years and placed him in a conservative, semi-rural district, Wachs campaigned furiously. He appeared before more than 100 community groups, opposed a controversial development in one of the district's more scenic spots, the Tujunga Wash, and sponsored a country music festival attended by more than 150,000 people.
The 48-year-old Wachs enjoyed a substantial financial advantage over his three opponents. He came into the campaign with more than $600,000 in his campaign treasury and raised $172,000 more, which he used to flood the district with mailers.
In the northwest valley's 12th District, 56-year-old Bernson, first elected in 1979, was opposed by Richard K. Williams II, an assistant dean of student programs at California State University, Northridge.
Police Tax Fight
In the 8th District, incumbent Farrell, 50, faced five opponents. The biggest issue in that race was Farrell's sponsorship of a proposed police tax for residents in South Los Angeles.
Under the plan, which will be on the June 2 ballot, property owners served by four Los Angeles Police Department divisions--Newton, Southwest, Southeast and 77th--would pay higher taxes to put 300 more officers on the streets. If it is approved, the average homeowner would pay an estimated $148 a year.
Veteran councilman Ferraro, 62, won a fifth term in the 4th District despite having to run in a redrawn district. Ferraro campaigned by largely ignoring his challenger, Sal Genovese, the owner of a counseling service.
Alatorre, 43, defeated two opponents in the Eastside 14th District in winning his first full term in office. Alatorre, a former state assemblyman, had won the council seat in a special election in December, 1985.
Also contributing to election coverage were Stephanie Chavez, Alan Citron, Janet Clayton, Alma Cook, Cathleen Decker, David Ferrell, Gabe Fuentes, Tracey Kaplan, Victor Merina, Alan C. Miller, Pamela Moreland, Richard Simon, Jill Stewart, Ted Vollmer, Bob Williams and Elaine Woo.