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LONG BEACH : Donelon Leads in Special Election for City Council

In a special City Council election Tuesday, contractor Mike Donelon was building a commanding 55% lead over employment consultant Tonia Reyes Uranga with more than half the vote counted.

Donelon’s supporters saw the tally as significant because much of it came from Uranga’s stronghold in West Long Beach.

Donelon, 42, and Uranga, 40, began campaigning for the council seat in early 1994 and finished in a virtual tie in a June runoff.

After Uranga had been declared the winner by six votes, a recount turned up seven uncounted absentee ballots and other improperly counted votes, giving Donelon an apparent two-vote victory.

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Donelon held the 7th Council District seat for 79 days until a Superior Court judge, finding numerous errors in the vote tally, voided the election in October.

Before Tuesday’s vote, City Clerk Shelba Powell tightened procedures for counting the votes, holding special training sessions for polling place inspectors and bringing in city clerks from neighboring cities as trouble-shooters.

Some City Hall insiders viewed the vote as a contest to determine the ideological direction of city government. Uranga portrayed herself as a progressive who favors new youth programs. Donelon called himself a pro-business candidate who supports neighborhood preservation efforts.

The City Council has four conservatives and four liberals or moderates.

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