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Redondo Beach Vote Leaves Doerr, Allies Smiling

Times Staff Writer

“I can’t stop smiling,” said Redondo Beach Mayor Barbara Doerr as dozens of well-wishers gathered at her home to help celebrate her victory Tuesday as a City Council candidate.

And, indeed, the two-term mayor had much to smile about. The voters of District 1 had chosen her by a decisive 17% margin over incumbent Councilman John Chapman, and on April 1 she will give up her largely ceremonial post and realize her wish to become a member of the city’s legislative body.

At the same time, voters citywide rejected a bid by Doerr’s longtime political foe, two-term Councilman Archie Snow, to exchange his District 4 seat for the mayor’s post.

The City Charter prevented Doerr and Snow from seeking a third term in their present positions.

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The election outcome effectively retired the 70-year-old Snow, who had been depicted by Doerr and her allies as an old-style, back-room politician aligned with developers. It potentially opened the way for the 45-year-old Doerr--who portrayed herself as an advocate of residents’ interests, open government and much tighter controls on growth--to become the leader of a new council majority.

Waiting for Runoff

However, the makeup of the new council--and Doerr’s successor as mayor--will not be determined until the May 16 runoff election, because none of the candidates, except Doerr, received more than 50% of the vote in their races.

Two other council candidates endorsed by Doerr--real estate appraiser Michael F. Ford in District 2 and school Trustee Valerie Dombrowski in District 4--led their opponents by narrow margins. But they failed to win election because an inactive candidate in each race absorbed a small but critical percentage of the votes cast.

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Ford, 38, received 787 votes (48.1%) against incumbent Kay Horrell’s 696 (42.5%), while Neil Nathanson, who dropped out of the race nearly two months ago, got 154 (9.4%).

Dombrowski, 53, got 465 votes (49.7%) in District 4, compared to 417 (44.6%) for Terry Ward, 51, a data processing consultant and the candidate endorsed by Snow. Barry Ogle, another inactive candidate whose name remained on the ballot, got 54 votes (5.8%).

In the mayoral contest, which had five candidates, the runoff will be held between Brad Parton, a 28-year-old investment counselor, and Frank Bostrom, 39, an architect and community planner. Both campaigned for tighter controls on development, and Bostrom was endorsed by Doerr.

Parton, who billed himself as an independent, energetic newcomer who could work successfully with Doerr and her allies, received 1,726 votes, or 25.2% of 6,850 ballots cast citywide. Bostrom, who called for higher building standards and the preservation of recreational space, got 1,639 votes, or 24%.

Snow came in third for mayor with 21.6%, missing his shot at the runoff by 166 votes. John Dancy was a close fourth with 21.4%, and Steve Bopp got 8.1%. Voter turnout citywide was 19.3%, slighter higher than the average in recent years.

The council will pick an acting mayor from among its members on April 1 to serve until Doerr’s successor is elected in the runoff. Under Redondo Beach’s novel system, the mayor presides over council meetings but has no vote except in case of a tie. The mayor has veto power but can be overridden by four votes on the five-member council.

That became almost a ritual during Doerr’s tenure as mayor, when she often found herself opposing a four-member majority--Snow, Chapman, Horrell and District 5 Councilman Ron Cawdrey.

If voters in the runoff election fulfill the rest of Doerr’s wishes, she could potentially take over Snow’s old role and assume leadership of a new council majority--herself, Ford, Dombrowski and District 3 Councilman Stevan Colin, who has been her only council ally since his election a year ago.

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‘More Responsive’

“We will be working for our candidates,” Doerr said Tuesday night. “I think the voters will find that we are more responsive to the wishes of residents.”

However, Horrell and Ward were close on the heels of their council rivals in Tuesday’s election and are expected to wage strong campaigns to pull ahead in the May runoff.

Chapman, a county regional planner who was opposed by Doerr in his bid for a second term in District 1, could not be reached Wednesday for comment. He received 775 votes, or 41.7%, compared to Doerr’s 1,080, or 58.3%.

Snow, in an elegiac mood as his long career as a dominant force in city politics came to an end, said Wednesday: “Of course, I feel bad, but I’m not crushed. I’ll still be around. . . . Watching City Hall is second nature to me.”

Blames Heart Surgery

Snow, a retired mechanical engineer who was active in city affairs long before his election to the council in 1981, attributed his loss Tuesday to heart surgery in January that largely sidelined him during the crucial last months of the campaign and to his opponents’ success in labeling him as an aging, old-style politician who is out of tune with the city’s needs.

“But I have no regrets, no excuses, and I wish the best to the winners,” he said. “I had eight good years on the council, and I enjoyed every minute of it.”

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City Atty. Gordon Phillips was reelected to a third term without opposition. Voters also approved three ballot measures by wide margins.


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