Opting for continuity, Glendale voters Tuesday swept community activist Eileen Givens into office and reelected Mayor Larry Zarian for a third term in what some candidates and observers called the dirtiest City Council election in recent history.
Givens, 47, who during the nearly six-month campaign championed existing council policies and advocated little change, garnered the most votes among the eight candidates. Her win came despite a controversial effort by the conservative wing of the local Republican Party to brand her a liberal Republican who supported a Democratic agenda.
She replaces Councilman Jerold Milner, who did not seek reelection.
Zarian, 53, came in second. Both winners had comfortable leads over the remaining six candidates. They will be sworn into office at 8 p.m. Monday at City Hall.
In two other races Tuesday, four incumbents were reelected to the Glendale Board of Education and Glendale Community College Board of Trustees despite strong showings by some of their challengers.
Sharon Beauchamp and Blanch Greenwood defeated attorney Robert Burlison and congressional aide Peter Musurlian in the school board race. Rae Berry and Robert Holmes edged out challenger Don Pearson, a Glendale planning commissioner, to retain their seats on the college board.
Only 15,217 voters--20.4% of the Glendale area’s 74,627 registered voters--visited polls Tuesday or sent in absentee ballots to fill two seats each on the school and community college boards and the City Council.
In the 1989 election, which fielded 13 candidates for three open City Council seats, 21.7% of the city’s registered voters turned out at the polls.
Tuesday’s council results were Givens, 5,216 votes or 19.6%; Zarian, 5,119 or 19.3%; former Carnation Co. Vice President Dick Matthews, 3,627 or 13.6%; realtor and Republican Party activist Mary Ann Plumley, 3,417 or 12.8%; Montrose-Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce President Bob Torres, 3,253 or 12.3%; former homeowners group president Mary Ann Prelock, 2,963 or 11.2%; marketing consultant Shirley Griffin, 1,563 or 5.9%, and council gadfly John Beach, 1,425 or 5.3%.
Givens’ election marked what is believed to be the first time in Glendale’s history that two women will serve together on the council. Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg was elected in 1981.
“At first glance, it looks like voters were looking for people with experience, with a knowledge of city government,” said Givens, hoarse and tired after a victory party for more than 300 supporters at her northwest Glendale home, where a precinct map, tally sheet and campaign signs filled her living room.
Givens, a 22-year Glendale resident, has served on the city’s Civil Service Commission, the Chamber of Commerce board of directors and local school advisory committees, among other things.
The first to announce her candidacy, Givens touted herself as a “fresh new voice.” But she consistently promoted the continuation of present council policies, which she regarded as successful. Givens raised at least $27,050 for her campaign, which included several mailers, phone banks and hundreds of yard signs and brochures.
Zarian said voters chose Givens and him because they were satisfied with the council’s record on growth, crime, transportation and other issues.
“People here traditionally give their votes to people who are part of the system for continuity rather than rash promises that have no substance,” he said late Tuesday while munching on potato chips at Givens’ victory party.
Zarian nervously had awaited initial tallies at City Hall before attending his own victory party at a downtown restaurant. He then arrived at Givens’ home to congratulate her.
“But,” he added, “this is not a mandate.”
Zarian raised at least $35,000 for his campaign, and his endorsements included the Glendale Verdugo Republican Assembly, the city firefighters association, Armenian groups and GlenPAC, a political action committee of business and real estate interests. But the incumbent failed to earn support from several city employee unions and the police officers association.
Plumley, chairwoman of the GOP Central Committee for the 41st Assembly District, was third in votes about halfway through the race but dropped to fourth by 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, when the final tally was completed.
Plumley’s campaign was the focus of a controversy that erupted late in the election. Some candidates and observers attributed to the candidate, her staff and local Republican Party members what they characterized as a smear campaign against Givens, which included a “hit letter” mailed to about 7,000 voters late last week.
The letter accused Givens of touting herself as a Republican Party activist while actually supporting a liberal Democratic agenda, including taxpayer-funded child care and parental leave.
It was signed by Pat Merrill, a longtime local GOP activist and Plumley campaign volunteer. Campaign records show that its $1,917 printing and mailing cost was paid for by Citizens for Responsible Representation. The group is a Sacramento-based political action committee that supports conservative Republican candidates, said its attorney, Charles Bell Jr.
Merrill, who attended Plumley’s campaign party Tuesday, said she wrote the letter after Givens refused at several public forums to answer questions about her membership in the American Assn. of University Women, a moderate nationwide group that focuses on education and equity issues for women.
The association supports parental leave, federally funded child-care programs and abortion rights, among other issues. Its membership is a mixture of Democrats and Republicans. Givens was state AAUW president from 1988 to 1990.
Merrill said she contacted a longtime friend who is treasurer of the Sacramento-based PAC, which then agreed to pay for the letter. But some supporters of Givens and at least two City Council members said they believe that Merrill did not act alone. They accused Plumley and the office of Assemblyman Pat Nolan (R-Glendale) of orchestrating the letter.
Last month, Bremberg and several other area Republican leaders wrote a letter to Nolan asking him to stay out of the race, Bremberg said. She said she and others had heard rumors that Nolan was actively supporting Plumley and helping to draft the letter.
During the campaign, Nolan named Plumley “Woman of the Year” in his 41st District. But Nolan spokeswoman Sheila McNichols this week said the assemblyman had not actively campaigned for Plumley nor participated in a campaign against Givens.
Plumley said Tuesday that she had nothing to do with Merrill’s letter, a phone-call campaign advising voters not to vote for Givens or an anti-Givens newspaper column written by Allen Brandstater, the husband of Plumley’s campaign leader, as well as a local political consultant and columnist.
“I can’t be responsible for anyone else’s actions,” Plumley said. “There wasn’t any outside influence.”
But she added that she thought that Givens was the “establishment candidate” who was handpicked by City Council members, including Bremberg. Referring to Merrill’s letter, Plumley said, “I don’t know if you’d call it a hit piece if you just sent a letter telling the truth.”
The accusations caused city leaders to declare the election heavily tarnished by mudslinging and innuendo.
“It’s the worst I’ve seen,” Councilman Carl Raggio said. “There was a new element of nastiness that came out.”
The brouhaha that surfaced between Givens and Plumley came at the end of what began as a relatively low-key race.
Matthews, who in 1989 placed fourth among 13 candidates running for three City Council seats, was powered during the race by endorsements from GlenPAC and the police officers and firefighters associations. But he ran a fairly quiet campaign, spending far less money than the other front-runners.
Torres sparked the most debate by proposing election reforms and strict commercial growth limits. He tried to target disgruntled residents and gained eleventh-hour support from west Glendale homeowners for his opposition to a redevelopment zone in their neighborhood.
Torres said Tuesday that with few volunteers, little name recognition and few contributions, his campaign could not match the orchestrated efforts of Givens and Zarian.
“My perception is that Larry and Eileen . . . were able to sell themselves,” he said as he and his wife left City Hall after his defeat. “Money does talk in this city.”
Prelock, former president of the Royal Canyon Property Owners Assn., kicked off her campaign by declaring herself the “homeowners candidate,” but was unable to muster broad support from that constituency.
Griffin, who ran unsuccessfully for the council in 1989, proposed a freeze on hillside development and called for stricter financial disclosure laws for council members. But she came under fire early in the race when she admitted that she failed to list her and her husband’s stock investments when she filed her first campaign disclosure form.
Beach, a semi-retired data processing supervisor who regularly attends council meetings, spent less than $300 on his campaign and attracted little support.
“But I can still raise hell like I’ve been doing, so it’s not a total loss,” he said as he waited at City Hall for final election results.
In the school board race, Beauchamp, 50, vying for a fourth four-year term, was the top vote-getter with 7,320 or 28%. Greenwood, 74, seeking a fifth term, had 7,147 votes, or 27.4%. Burlison, 37, a local attorney and school district activist, received 6,986 votes, or 26.7%. Musurlian, 29, an aide to Rep. Carlos Moorhead (R-Glendale), had 4,677 votes, or 17.9%.
The two challengers consistently questioned the age, vitality and tenure of Beauchamp and Greenwood, claiming that the incumbents were too entrenched and had lost their creativity. But on Tuesday, Musurlian conceded that the incumbents’ tenure had won them voters’ support.
“It’s the power of the incumbency,” he said. “If you’re an incumbent, you really have to do something . . . horrendous to get run out of office and they haven’t. They’re nice people.”
In the Glendale Community College Board of Trustees election, the least visible race, Holmes, 43, an attorney and a part-time teacher at the college, received 9,900 votes, or 41%. Berry, 73, a retired businesswoman and community activist, garnered 7,326 votes, or 30.4%. Pearson, 49, an attorney, had 6,860, or 28.4%.
Both incumbents won third terms on the board.