Six candidates, including a school board member and the president of a countywide Mexican-American women's organization, will challenge three Santa Ana City Council members and the mayor in the upcoming November city election.
As the filing period closed Friday, incumbent councilman Ron May appeared to face his toughest challenge from Robert L. Richardson, a school board member and executive assistant to Supervisor Roger R. Stanton. Santa Ana city employee Robert Banuelos, who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1986 and 1988, is also in the race.
In June, Richardson announced his candidacy by accusing Santa Ana planning commissioner Don Sizemore, May's campaign manager, of illegally soliciting funds for the councilman. The next day, Sizemore responded with a charge that Richardson had failed to file certain campaign statement forms.
May, a Santa Ana High School teacher, represents a district that includes some of the poorest sections of Santa Ana; one that has been plagued by overcrowding and crime problems.
Richardson contends that May has not been a leader on the council in pushing for solutions to those problems. "He's a passive participant on the council instead of an active member," Richardson said.
May asserts that Richardson is a "bureaucrat" who "thinks in terms of process. He's very methodical. But in terms of creativity, spontaneity and vision, there's no comparison between Rob Richardson and Ron May."
May and Richardson say the city should enact stricter limits on neighborhood overcrowding, while Banuelos says he wants to study the problem further before taking a position.
Councilman Richards L. Norton has drawn two challengers: Irene Martinez, who hopes to be the first Latina on the council, and attorney Glenn Mondo, who is a member of the mayor's task force on transportation. Both challengers have never run for public office.
Martinez, the president of the Mexican-American Women's National Assn. of Orange County, is a program coordinator for a social service organization in Santa Ana. She acknowledges that she moved from La Mirada to Santa Ana a month ago specifically to run against Norton.
"People need to see they can identify themselves with someone on the council," Martinez said. "I'm not a politician. I'm not someone striving for power. I work here and now live here and I see what needs to be taken care of."
Mondo says Norton is too combative to be an effective representative.
"Rick's a loner," Mondo said. "He's up there making his own proposals without background material or coalitions. It takes more than throwing out proposals to do a good job."
Norton said such a criticism "doesn't bother me. The old guard resists change and creative ideas. I'm not part of the old guard."
Councilman Miguel A. Pulido Jr., meanwhile, faces opposition from Coween A. Dickerson, a member of the city's cable television advisory board and a self-employed business systems analyst.
Dickerson says that the city needs more police officers in its 351-member department and fewer high-density buildings.
In recent months, Pulido has been under fire from the Latino rights group Hermandad Mexicana Nacional. The group's director, Nativo V. Lopez, promised to picket the councilman's family business weekly until the election because of a disagreement over the distribution of city-controlled federal funds. Pulido says the picketing now occurs only once a month.
Pulido says his reelection campaign will focus on neighborhood issues as well as citywide problems such as gangs and graffiti. Over the past four years, he has been instrumental in lobbying against placement of a new centralized jail in Santa Ana and pushing for an anti-gang program in city schools.
"I've been able to bring access to City Hall," Pulido said. "When I was running for office four years ago, it was difficult to even talk to the council. Now, you can sit down and meet with council members."
Mayor Daniel H. Young, a developer who has served on the council since 1982, faces virtually unknown challenger Richard G. Moser, an automotive engineer, who says he plans to run a low-budget campaign.
Moser believes he can moderate the council better than Young. Moser also dislikes the proposal for building a sports arena in Santa Ana and thinks the city can better spend tax dollars elsewhere.
"I like him (Young) personally," Moser said. "But he's been in there a long time and he's become part of the problem.
Young says he will concentrate on improving neighborhoods in the city and push for a monorail system in the county.
The remaining council members--Daniel E. Griset, Patricia A. McGuigan and John Acosta--are not up for election this year.