Oxnard City Councilman Michael A. Plisky gambled big and lost Tuesday, as voters resoundingly rejected his mayoral bid and instead elected incumbent Nao Takasugi to his fourth term.
Takasugi received 14,940 votes, whereas Plisky collected 10,084. Councilman Manuel Lopez, the third-place finisher, received 5,461.
Takasugi, a retired grocer, hailed Plisky's loss as the dawn of a new era of unity on Oxnard's divided City Council.
"I look forward to a very cohesive council," said Takasugi, 66, who became mayor six years ago after serving for six years as a councilman. "I have every confidence we can work together."
The mayor has maintained that the council has been hampered by "constant bickering," which he blamed on Plisky. "We're going to miss Mike's line of questioning and some of his perceptiveness, but we can certainly do without his negativity," he said. But Plisky, who is known for his outspokenness and intense scrutiny of city staff recommendations, said he did not regret seeking the higher office, although it meant giving up the council seat he has held since 1984.
"I have no regrets," said Plisky, 47, a business and tax consultant who had positioned himself as the council's watchdog. "I didn't get into government to become a professional politician. I came to make some changes in the way we do things, and I did."
Plisky's council seat expires Nov. 22.
He said his loss was tempered by the knowledge that his friend and political ally Geraldine Furr, 65, was elected to the City Council.
"I just hope and pray Gerry and Anna are able to get the message across better than I," he said, referring to his ally on the council, Ann Johs, who was not up for relection.
Furr, who retired from the city treasurer's post that she has held for 23 years before announcing her candidacy, finished first in the seven-candidate race for the city's two council slots, with incumbent Dorothy S. Maron, 59, in second place. Furr received 12,294 votes, and Maron received 11,337.
Lopez, the other strong contender in the mayor's race, expressed surprise at his modest showing.
"I was waiting for the turnaround, but it never came," said Lopez, a 61-year-old optometrist who has served 10 years on the council.
According to Ventura County election officials, 33,154 of Oxnard residents, or 63.5% of the city's registered voters, cast ballots in Tuesday's election.
Defeated in the council race were retired Oxnard College President Edward W. Robings, 59, who now serves as executive director of Oxnard's World Trade Center Assn; Roy Lockwood, who frequently attends City Council meetings and has run frequently for office since 1972; Tony V. Grey, 51, an Oxnard planning commissioner and a deputy logistics officer at the U.S. Navy's Construction Battalion Base; Bruce Forsyth, 57, a businessman and real estate broker who also sought a seat on the council in 1986; and Paul Chatman, 43, a merchandise manager at J. C. Penney who was seeking office for the first time. They received 8,690, 8650, 2836 and 2,113 votes, respectively.
Focus on Personalities
The mayor's race focused on personality, with Plisky characterizing Takasugi and Lopez as too weak to effectively lead Oxnard's fractious council.
Both men countered by depicting Plisky as overly aggressive and prone to "staff-bashing," or chastising city employees at council meetings when their reports were not to his liking. Plisky, who unsuccessfully challenged Takasugi in 1986, had viewed the election as an opportunity to redirect the council. His goal was to shift the balance of power from a Takasugi-led majority that he has characterized as liberal, free-spending and excessively agreeable to staff recommendations.
The three hired political consultants--a first for an Oxnard municipal election.
Fight for control of the council was not only bitter, but expensive. According to campaign statements covering fund raising before Oct. 22, Takasugi had raised $98,366, followed by Plisky, with contributions of $63,899, including $20,000 of his own money. Also vying for the mayor's post, which pays $600 a month, were Paul Dolan, 37, a newspaper distributor who is leading residents of the Oxnard Dunes neighborhood in a class-action toxic-waste suit, and Oscar Karrin, 72, a retired butcher and vocal council critic. They received 936 and 772, respectively.
In other races, Dale Belcher, a 49-year-old officer at a savings and loan, was elected city treasurer from among seven candidates, and incumbent City Clerk Mabi Plisky was returned to the office that she has held since 1980.
Belcher, who won by a 1,139-vote margin, said she will resign from her job as vice president and manager of the Canoga Park branch of Valley Federal Savings to accept the treasurer's post, which is a full-time job.
Mabi Plisky's opponent, John Cobian, 51, who received 9,324 votes to 20,719 for the incumbent, had claimed that her marriage to Michael Plisky represented a conflict of interest, despite an opinion to the contrary from the state attorney general's office.
Cobian, a court translator and host of a talk show on a local cable television channel, also sought to expand the duties of the city clerk's office to include a citizenship drive for the city's large population of Mexican natives.
The election was the first since Oxnard residents overwhelmingly voted a year ago to keep the treasurer an elected position rather than to make it an appointed position, which was proposed by Lopez and others in a controversial measure on last November's ballot.