Challengers Take On Compton Mayor, 2 Councilmen

Times Staff Writer

Voters may be in for election fireworks this year as a broad field of candidates, including two convicted felons, prepares to challenge incumbent Councilmen Floyd A. James and Robert L. Adams and Mayor Walter R. Tucker in the April 18 primary.

James, who has had his own share of legal problems, faces a rematch with Patricia Moore, who came close to defeating the councilman four years ago. That bitter and expensive campaign resulted in James pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of election fraud.

James was ordered to pay a $15,000 fine and perform 80 hours of community work for sending out a last-minute mailer that said Moore had been disqualified from running for office. A second charge--that he illegally persuaded people to vote for him by handing out record albums of a Jesse Jackson speech--was dropped in a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Moore narrowly defeated James in the April, 1985, citywide primary for District 2. In the June runoff, however, James outpolled her by a margin of almost 2 to 1.


James, 48, is seeking his third term on the council. Moore, 40, is a census outreach specialist for the Department of Commerce and also a student at Cal State Dominguez Hills.

Moore is predicting victory this time, saying that the level of discontent with the City Council and with crime and unemployment conditions is so high that voters are responding to her more strongly than they did four years ago and saying that they plan to vote against incumbents.

“I hear it everywhere I go,” she said. “They say to me, ‘I want anybody but who’s in there. Just look at our city. I can’t go to the store. I can’t water my lawn or do anything. Just look at the (Compton Lazben) hotel. It’s empty.’ ”

The $30-million hotel and convention center, a project of the city’s Redevelopment Agency, was to open in December, but work has stalled several times. The opening has been delayed indefinitely as the city and the developer try to work out construction disputes.


James is also opposed by Leon C. Polk, 43, a security guard, and Harry Henderson, 49, a financial consultant and former supervisor in the automotive department of the Compton Police Department.

James could not be reached for comment.

James and Adams are the only council members up for reelection, and Adams said he expects to be forced into a runoff, probably with Bernice Woods, a long-time member of the Compton Unified School District board.

“I feel it would be a runoff because (Woods) is an elected official,” said Adams, 57, who is seeking his fourth term. The councilman said he considered bowing out this year but “after seeing the field of the people who were running, I couldn’t do it.” None of his challengers, he said, could provide “quality representation” for the city.

Seven candidates are vying for Adams’ District 3 seat, among them Benjamin Holifield, whose wife, Emily Hart-Holifield, a trustee at Compton Community College, forced Adams into a runoff election four years ago. Ben Holifield, 53, owns the Exotic Inn on West Compton Boulevard and is making his first bid for public office.

Woods, 64, once unsuccessfully sued the school district for lifetime medical benefits, claiming that her board dealings with Supt. Ted D. Kimbrough caused her psychological stress. In an interview this week, Woods said she is retired from the nursing department at Harbor Hospital, but she would not say what work she did there. She said she is not a licensed practical nurse nor a registered nurse.

Also challenging Adams is Alfonso Benson Sr., a city planning commissioner and a former city housing commissioner. Benson, 65, is a retired supervisor from the Los Angeles County Road Department, where he worked for nearly 29 years. He ran against Adams in 1977 and lost.

Fred Cressel, 51, is also trying for a second time to defeat Adams, having run four years ago. Cressel, owner of Cressel’s Stationers and Mr. Presto Printing, helped lead the campaign to defeat a measure that would have made the mayor’s job a full-time post.


The Rev. Walter Goodin, 41-year-old pastor of Faith Chapel Baptist Church in Los Angeles, is also in a rematch with Adams.

Others running against Adams are Juanas S. Moten, 61, a retired mechanic and former labor union organizer, who is running for public office for the first time, and Martin D. Chavez, who could not be reached for comment.

Tucker, 64, has four challengers: Everson Esters, the Rev. Forrest R. Smith, Royce Esters and Omar Bradley.

Everson Esters, 37, owner of VIP Transportation Co., worked for three years for the National Democratic Committee in Washington. He graduated from Dominguez High School and attended Ripon College.

Royce Esters, 51, who is no relation to Everson Esters, is a tax accountant and former chairman of the city’s crime commission. Bradley, 30, is an English teacher at Lynwood High School.

Smith, 44, who says he has dissolved his congregation at Dove Outreach Christain Center in order to run for office, might not be able to serve if elected mayor because 20 years ago he was convicted of robbery and assault and served three years in a Texas state prison.

State law does not address the question of whether convicted felons can run for office but it does say that certain “high crimes” prevent people from holding office, said Caren Daniels-Meade, media director for the secretary of state.

Daniels-Meade said felonies are considered high crimes and that if a felon is elected, the Los Angeles County district attorney or the state attorney general would move to prevent the person from taking office. Smith said that if he is elected, he will mount a legal fight to be allowed to serve.


Former school board member Saul Lankster, who is running against incumbent City Clerk Charles Davis, is also a convicted felon and may face the same problem if he is elected. Lankster, 44, was convicted on three felony charges of selling false driving-school diplomas to undercover agents who posed as traffic violators. Lankster owns a florist shop in Compton.

Lankster claimed this week that his 1985 conviction has since been set aside by the courts and that he is free to hold office. But court records show that the conviction was neither appealed nor overturned, according to Steven A. Sowders, chief deputy in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office in Compton.

Incumbent City Atty. Wesley Fenderson Jr. is facing Frank E. Bazadier, 55, a private attorney whose law office is in Carson. Bazadier ran the Legal Aid office in Compton between 1975 and 1983.

Earnest Spears, executive director of the Compton Chamber of Commerce, is challenging City Treasurer Wesley Sanders Jr., 56, who is seeking his fifth term.