Many Incumbents Ousted in Local Elections : Voting: Long Beach mayor is among longtime officials who lose. Several cities see power transferred to Latinos.


In cities ranging in size from Long Beach to Lomita, Los Angeles County voters Tuesday ousted longtime mayors and council members, dramatically altering the local political landscape.

Several cities--including Maywood, South Gate and Cudahy--saw power transfer to Latinos, the ethnic group that comprises the majority of their populations and now controls the city councils. But in Monterey Park, the prospect of having California's first Asian American majority on a council did not materialize.

Overall, the anti-incumbent fervor was striking.

In Long Beach, Mayor Ernie Kell lost a bid to remain the only mayor the city has known since voters began electing their top official in 1988. Kell, 65, placed a distant fifth among 13 candidates in a race that will result in a June runoff between former Long Beach City College President Beverly O'Neill and Councilman Ray Grabinski.

In nearby Rolling Hills, longtime Councilwoman Gordana Swanson, who forced County Supervisor Deane Dana into a runoff two years ago, was ousted from her city office after 12 years.

And in Beverly Hills, Councilman Robert K. Tanenbaum, the top vote-getter in two previous elections and a 1992 candidate for district attorney, was unseated. He finished third in a field of eight for two council seats.

The trend was evident throughout the county.

* In the San Gabriel Valley, 14 of the 44 city council incumbents seeking reelection were unseated. In fact, voters elected at least one new face in 19 of 21 cities holding elections. In some cases, the newcomers made history. In La Puente, Sally Ann Holguin-Fallon was the first women elected to the council in the city's 38-year history, while South El Monte has its first all-Latino council.

* In Bellflower, all three incumbents were defeated. Elsewhere in the county's southeastern section, at least one current officeholder lost in each of the following cities: Norwalk, Whittier, Santa Fe Springs, Artesia, Pico Rivera, Paramount, Signal Hill, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, South Gate, Maywood and Huntington Park.

* In the South Bay, voters ousted seven incumbents in four local elections, including three council members in Lomita and two in El Segundo.

* And on the Westside, three incumbents, including Tanenbaum, were unseated.

"When you have that many cities with this kind of a pattern, it has to mean more than someone is upset with a specific city policy," said Larry Berg, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

Apart from the sentiment for change, the politics of race also loomed significant Tuesday.

Along with the gains made by Latinos in South Gate, Maywood and Cudahy, runoffs in Long Beach could give that city its first Latino council members. Former Long Beach school board member Jenny Oropeza will face Dianne McNinch, a community organizer, for the 1st District seat. In the 3rd District, Tonia Reyes Uranga will square off against Mike Donelon, a general contractor.

Conversely, the expected political gains for the San Gabriel Valley's growing Asian American community failed to materialize.

In Arcadia, Sheng H. Chang became not only the city's first Asian American councilman, but its first ethnic minority to win a council seat.

But in Monterey Park, where 53% of residents are of Asian descent, all three Asian American candidates, including Councilman Samuel Kiang, were routed.

Asian American council candidates also lost in San Marino and Rosemead.


Final Southland election returns will be found in appropriate suburban sections.

For the Record Los Angeles Times Thursday April 21, 1994 Home Edition Southeast Part J Page 2 Zones Desk 1 inches; 25 words Type of Material: Correction Council election--Tonia Reyes Uranga is a candidate in the 7th City Council district in Long Beach. The district number was listed incorrectly in the April 14 edition of the Times.
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