Facing a militant slow growth movement, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich was falling short of the majority he needed for victory in his heavily suburban district Tuesday, while his two supervisorial colleagues were easily reelected.
It was a dramatic demonstration of the power of grass-roots groups wanting a slowdown of development.
Lacking money, political experience and the power tool of modern politics, television and radio advertising, Antonovich's foes waged a practically invisible campaign.
But one of the challengers was the well known Baxter Ward, whom Antonovich defeated eight years ago. And another, Los Angeles Fire Capt. Don Wallace, was backed by labor unions and the Democratic organization headed by Reps. Howard L. Berman of Panorama City and Henry A. Waxman of the Westside, which included him in two mailings to Democratic households.
Forming a coalition, the challengers were able to hurt the well-financed incumbent by capitalizing, almost by word of mouth, on hostility to growth that had been growing in communities throughout a district where mountain canyons, fields and the desert are turning into residential subdivisions, shopping centers and industrial parks.
Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner overwhelmed his opposition and won a second term so handily that it is expected to push him along in a race for statewide office, possibly attorney general, in two years.
Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, crippled by a stroke and forced to campaign from a wheelchair, proved again that his brand of old fashion politics--hand-shaking, church-going and filling his district up with public services--works. The predominantly black voters of the 2nd District, reaching from Lynwood to Culver City, overwhelmingly gave their white representative a 10th four-year term.
Supervisor Deane Dana was easily elected to a third term representing the 4th District, which runs along the coast from Long Beach to Malibu.
In judicial contests, meanwhile, two of three Superior Court and eight Municipal Court judges who faced opposition were winning, including the three judges who had been rated "not qualified" by the Los Angeles County Bar Assn.
Growth was the major issue as Antonovich sought a third term in the most suburban of the five supervisorial districts--the 5th, reaching from the still rustic canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains through the new growth suburbs of the western and northern San Fernando Valley and over the San Gabriel Mountains to Pasadena and other cities in the San Gabriel Valley. Nine challengers, including the man Antonovich defeated in 1980, Ward, attacked Antonovich repeatedly for favoring developers and other business interests who had contributed to his campaign.
Antonovich received just 50% of the absentee votes, which are usually dominated by conservative candidates. To win election in the primary, and avoid a November runoff, Antonovich needed more than 50%.
"He is well on his way to a runoff," said Wallace, a homeowners' leader in the Santa Monica Mountains.
The supervisor said many of his Republican supporters had not voted because the GOP presidential race had already been decided. "A small Republican turnout is a factor. . . . I think it would help Republican candidates if we had a contested primary." He added that "none of the polling indicated a problem . . . but if people don't vote, it doesn't help."
As returns mounted, Antonovich said, "I would say the reckless charges that have been made have been harmful . . . traditionally that type of mudslinging is rejected by the voters."
But fellow conservative Dana said he thought Antonovich was hurt by public objections to construction in Agoura, Calabasas and the Santa Clarita Valley. That was "part of it," Dana said. "But a lot of it is Mike's style, his management style in dealing with his constituency."
The judicial races appeared to be something of an embarrassment for the Los Angeles County Bar Assn.'s system of rating judges.
Two of the three Superior Court and all eight Municipal Court judges who faced opposition were winning, including three judges who had been rated "not qualified" by the Los Angeles County Bar Assn.
Superior Court Judge Henry Patrick Nelson, rated "not qualified," was leading 3 to 1 over attorney Joe Ingber, who had been rated "qualified" by the Bar Assn. Los Angeles Municipal Judge Michael Nash and Southeast Municipal Judge Russell Schooling, both also rated "not qualified," led by 2-1 margins over opponents who had gotten higher ratings.
But Superior Court Judge Roberta Ralph, rated "qualified" by the Bar Assn., was decisively defeated by her opponent, attorney Harvey A. Schneider, who had been rated "well qualified."
Superior Court Judge Burton Bach led his opponent, Deputy Dist. Atty. Lawrence Mason, by a fairly narrow margin in a race in which Mason had strong backing by organized labor. Municipal Judges Malcolm Mackey, Jerold A. Krieger, Terry Smerling and Sherrill D. Luke led in their bids for open Superior Court seats by sizable margins.
With the exception of Antonovich, the Los Angeles County incumbents ran confident, low-profile campaigns, pretty much ignoring their opponents.
Antonovich first paid no attention to his nine challengers, but toward the end of the campaign began calling them "The Gang of Nine" and appeared with them in a debate Memorial Day weekend.
He did not take the race lightly. He put more than $1.1 million into his effort, apparently aware of the slow-growth sentiment in the Santa Monica Mountains and the newer residential suburbs in the western and northern San Fernando Valley.
Another danger sign as he began the race was the fact that he had run poorly in these areas when he unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for the Senate two years ago.
TV, Radio Ads
A big chunk of his money, $450,000, went for television and radio advertisements, with his campaign managers picking the well-watched Oprah Winfrey and Phil Donahue shows, as well as game shows and the Lakers basketball playoffs. Another large amount went for mailed advertisements.
Contributions from the building industry and financial institutions, which have a stake in development, as well as other businesses helped boost the Antonovich campaign treasury.
While the amount of the campaign contributions, and the source, gave opponents material for attacks, they lacked the funds to spread their messages very far. Wallace, for example, collected more money than the other eight, but it amounted to only $25,000, according to a report filed more than a week before the election.
But he was endorsed by labor and used his money to buy a spot on a mailer produced by political consultants Michael Berman and Carl D'Agostino, whose firm is the political arm of the Berman-Waxman Democratic organization, which is influential on the Westside and in parts of the San Fernando Valley. The mailers were sent twice to the district's Democratic voters.
Dana also had substantial campaign funds, and they helped discourage opposition. His ballot rivals were unknowns, as were most of Antonovich's. But there were only two of them, and they were unable to put together the united effort that worried Antonovich. Neither spent more than $1,000, while Dana was able to spend at least $250,000 and give a large amount of money to his son, a state Assembly candidate in the South Bay area.
Hahn's was the only supervisorial race where growth was not an issue. His district, reaching from Lynwood to Culver City, includes some of the poorest areas of the county, and Hahn has fought for years to get them more development.
An old-fashioned pol's attention to district concerns made this white political leader beloved in a heavily black district and was the reason why, even with his health failing, his eight challengers had trouble developing support.
But they tried, raising the health issue in a far more blunt manner than has been done since his stroke 18 months ago. "His physical condition should not permit him to continue because the level of his representation is grossly inadequate," challenger Royce Love said. But challenger Gil Smith, former mayor of Carson, noted the biggest obstacle facing Hahn foes: "He has tremendous financial power that nobody else has."
Reiner, who won the office four years ago against Dist. Atty. Robert Philibosian, had a much easier time in this year's election. In 1984, he campaigned as an outsider against a man who had been appointed to the job by the Board of Supervisors after Dist. Atty. John K. Van de Kamp was elected state attorney general.
This time, Reiner was so settled into his job that he ignored the attacks of one of his well-known deputies, Lea Purwin D'Agostino, and two lesser known challengers.
Also contributing to election coverage were John Balzar, Bettina Boxall, Glenn F. Bunting, Steven R. Churm, Frank Clifford, Alma Cook, Donna Dowling, Warwick J. Elston, David Ferrell, Michele Fuetsch, Jerry Gillam, Todd Gillman, James M. Gomez, Scott Harris, Barry M. Horstman, Hilary Iker, Carl Ingram, Daryl Kelley, Claudia Luther, Bill McElhaney, Joseph Medo, Victor Merina, Bryan M. Moylan, Lynn O'Shaughnessy, Jeffrey A. Perlman, Jeffrey L. Rabin, Cecilia Rassmusen, Kenneth Reich, Sebastian Rotella, George Stein, Jill Stewart, Sheryl Stolberg, William Trombley, David J. Van Houten, Ted Vollmer, Mike Ward and Daniel M. Weintraub.