Saved by the district where voters know her name best, City Councilwoman Jane D. Robbins appeared to win reelection Tuesday by 35 ballots--less than 1% of the total turnout--and overcome a powerful challenge from businessman Richard Bonner.
The outcome is not final, however, because Bonner has asked for a recount that is scheduled to begin today.
After 31 of the city's 32 precincts had been counted Tuesday night, Bonner led by 16 votes, aided by the endorsements of Mayor Walter R. Tucker, City Treasurer Wesley Sanders Jr. and school board President Manuel Correa, one of four candidates that Robbins soundly defeated in an April primary.
But when the northwest precinct around Dickison Elementary School reported, Robbins took a 30-vote lead and gained five more moments later when absentees were counted.
"The last district that came in is where I spent 10 years of my life as principal of a school named for my father, Clarence A. Dickison," said Robbins, a retired teacher and third-generation city resident. Her father helped draft the Municipal Charter in 1924 and became Compton's first mayor after incorporation. The incumbent listed her name on the ballot as "Jane Dickison Robbins."
Senior Council Member
"I just want to thank all the people who worked for me," Robbins said. "I feel great."
At 67, she is the senior council member in both age and experience, having taken office after a special election in 1976 and winning full four-year terms in 1979 and 1983. Her last reelection victory was even closer: Challenger Patricia A. Moore came within 11 votes of pulling an election-night upset, although Robbins' margin of victory widened to 74 after a recount.
Bonner, a 45-year-old beauty shop owner and two-time unsuccessful council candidate, declined to comment Tuesday night, appearing stunned by the last-second turnaround.
When City Hall opened Wednesday morning, City Clerk Charles Davis said Bonner immediately requested a recount and presented a $120 payment to cover the cost of tabulating the 3,657 ballots by hand. Davis said the voter turnout was a dismal 9.7%, slightly better than the 9%--lowest in city history--recorded in the primary. Davis said he expects the recount to take a day or two. If either candidate wants to challenge the election after that, they must file suit in Superior Court.
Robbins said she was surprised by the close voting. Thrashing her four challengers in the primary voting, she came within 2.8% of the 50% required to win outright then. But she was forced into a runoff with Bonner, who finished second with 22.1%. Robbins predicted that she would win the general election 2 to 1, even after Bonner gained endorsements from all the losing candidates and Mayor Tucker.
In a campaign letter mailed to voters over the weekend, Tucker described Bonner as a representative of "the new Compton" and said the businessman had "promised to support me on such important issues pertaining to public safety, taxes and charter changes." The mayor's letter contended that "some selfish persons might try to inform you that we want their job. That is not so. We just want them to do their job."
Won't Let Ties Sour
"The mayor had a lot of clout," Robbins acknowledged. "Remember, he's the first mayor to have been reelected for a second term." But if her victory stands, Robbins said she won't let Tucker's support for her opponent sour any council relations.
"I don't think that's going to make too much difference," she said. "I'm still going to vote for what I think is best and what the people want. . . . As far as I'm concerned, it's forgotten. . . . We need to get about the business of the city."
Although she usually votes with the council majority, Robbins periodically joins Councilman Maxcy D. Filer in opposing measures that Tucker supports. For example, earlier this year the council voted 3 to 2 to give the mayor a $36,000 raise. But because a 4-1 vote was needed to appropriate the money, the "no" votes from Robbins and Filer effectively scuttled the measure.
If Robbins' victory is upheld, the council membership will remain the same. Filer won another term by defeating school board member John Steward in the primary. Tucker and council members Robert L. Adams and Floyd A. James will not face reelection for two more years.