With her lead over former Mayor G. Stanton Selby increasing as each precinct reported its tally, Mayor Donna Smith stepped in front of a cable television camera Tuesday night to discuss her reelection.
But after picking up an earphone to hear the TV interviewer's questions, Smith became visibly upset. What she was hearing, she explained afterward, was the voice of her most strident critic, Councilman C.L. (Clay) Bryant, as he was being interviewed live from American Cablesystem's Pomona studio.
At the end of the interview, Smith burst into tears and left the council chambers, where friends and family were cheering the announcement of each new tally.
"He made some very cruel remarks," Smith said afterward. "As I told him on the TV, 'Well, Mr. Bryant, you're stuck with me for the next two years.' "
"That's unfortunate," Bryant said in response after the TV show. "I was hoping for something better for Pomona. . . . Selby would have projected an image of dignity, integrity and experience, and she don't have any of those. . . . I don't think there's anybody saying she's that great; there's just 4,000 people who believe lies."
Smith received 4,068 votes, or 64.8% of the total, to Selby's 2,214, or 35.2%, from 15.3% of Pomona's voters. After the votes were tallied, Selby congratulated Smith and called for an end to the bickering that has plagued the City Council in recent years.
"I hope she has learned from the past two years that the city of Pomona badly needs a City Council with one objective: progress and growth for all," Selby said.
Despite the mandate she received from the city's voters, Smith's reelection was claimed at much personal expense.
Target of Arsonist
During the campaign's final week, an arsonist torched the mayor's truck, parked in the Smiths' driveway only a few feet from their house. In the final days before Tuesday's runoff vote, rumors spread that one of her sons was a gang member and drug dealer.
"This has gotten out of hand," said Robert Smith, the mayor's husband, in response. "Say whatever you want to about my wife. She's the politician. But don't hit below the belt."
Smith said her resounding victory offered little solace. "I think we'll be more relieved when we find out who torched my car and for what reason," she said. "We haven't slept well at our house since that happened."
Smith faces the prospect of two years of contention with Bryant, who has promised to make the mayor's second term "hell." Bryant said he now has an ally in Tomas Ursua, who was elected in the March primary, to form a majority along with Councilwoman Nell Soto.
Smith said she hopes Ursua will be "an independent voice" on the council. She urged Bryant to end the feuding.
"He is the one who campaigned on council unity two years ago, and I hope he will work for that," she said. "I'm willing to start fresh and move the city forward, and I hope he will be a part of that movement."