Hayden, Hirshberg Not Ready to Concede Yet in Tight Races

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Even as their opponents made plans to take office, Tom Hayden and Judith Hirshberg refused to concede defeat Wednesday in two close contests for the Los Angeles City Council. City officials said it may be 14 days before a final count is completed.

The decisive winners for three other council seats, Eric Garcetti, Jan Perry and Janice Hahn, were savoring their victories in Tuesday's election for the 13th, 9th and 15th districts, respectively.

With perhaps thousands of provisional and absentee ballots not yet counted in each district, police union director Dennis Zine held a 132-vote lead over former council deputy Hirshberg in the unofficial election-night tally for the west San Fernando Valley's 3rd District. More than 40,000 votes were counted in the race.

In the 5th District, stretching from Westwood to Valley Glen, former prosecutor Jack Weiss had a 289-vote lead over former state Sen. Hayden in the election-night tally of more than 50,000 votes.

Weiss, 36, tentatively declared victory after the last of the returns were released about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday and said later he was interviewing prospective staff members and making other preparations to assume office.

"I'm very gratified," Weiss said. "It was a tough campaign. It was a close race, but at the end of the day, the people of this district decided they wanted a new generation of leadership."

With about 22,000 provisional and absentee ballots untallied citywide, Hayden said in an interview it is premature to call the election.

"It's not clear who has won the election," Hayden said. "There is no conclusion one can draw."

Rocky Rushing, Hayden's campaign manager, acknowledged it will be an "uphill battle" to make up the difference but said Hayden had not ruled out requesting a recount if the final tally remains close.

Hayden called Wednesday for an investigation into the last-minute scrapping of a polling station at St. Ambrose Catholic Church that served three Westside precincts and a change in location for a station serving much of Laurel Canyon.

He said such a probe might best be conducted by the city Ethics Commission.

"We are collecting affidavits on several irregularities that cost us enough votes to make the difference right there," Hayden said.

Rushing said the closure at the church caused confusion for many voters in a part of the district where Hayden did well in the April primary. Some voters were sent to nearby polling places.

"We are not going to concede or throw in the towel until all the issues of voting irregularity have been resolved," Rushing said.

In a written statement to supporters, Hayden said that the race against Weiss was "the toughest of my electoral battles" and that he was hurt by low turnout, which meant a higher percentage of conservative voters went to the polls.

Hayden also said Weiss was able to project himself as a qualified Democrat while also consolidating a majority of the Republican vote. He cited a variety of obstacles and opponents, including "the editors and owners of the Los Angeles Times," which endorsed Weiss.

Asked in an interview if losing the election would mean an end to his career in politics, Hayden said, "Of course not." But he declined to say what his plans would be.

In the 3rd District, Hirshberg's campaign was also investigating reports of election irregularities, including the one-hour closure of one polling station because of mechanical problems.

"We're not saying this is Florida. We're still trying to find out" more facts, said Pam Gomez, Hirshberg's campaign manager.

Hirshberg said the outcome could change when provisional and some absentee ballots are counted.

"I am not conceding defeat until all the votes are counted," Hirshberg said. She was in a similar situation in the April election, when she finished 145 votes ahead of Francine Oschin for a spot on the runoff ballot but had to wait 10 days for a final count.

Coasting on adrenaline after an hour of sleep, Zine declared victory Wednesday morning. "I always considered myself the underdog," he said. "I didn't take anything for granted."

Zine's phone started jangling about 6 a.m. as congratulatory calls began to pour in. But he said he still had not heard from Hirshberg.

Finally, he went to church. "I thanked God for this," said Zine, a West Hills resident.

Deputy City Clerk Frank Martinez said that citywide about 22,000 ballots have not been counted, including absentees hand-delivered by voters to polling places Tuesday and provisional ballots cast by voters whose names were not on polling-place lists.

In both cases, the city clerk must verify signatures before determining whether the ballots should be counted.

Martinez said he does not know how many of the uncounted ballots are in the 5th and 3rd districts, but Rushing estimated possibly 2,000 or more in each.

The next-closest council race was in the 13th District, in which college professor Garcetti declared victory after receiving 52% of the vote, or 1,066 more votes than his rival, former Councilman Mike Woo.

Garcetti, son of former Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti, said he was informed by city officials Wednesday that he could be sworn in as early as next week, filling the seat vacated with Jackie Goldberg's election to the Assembly last year. The other new council members will take office in July.

"It looks like I will be the most senior and the most junior of the new crop," said Garcetti, 30. "This was an electrifying win."

Councilwoman-elect Hahn of San Pedro--who won with nearly 57% of the vote in the 15th District--said she plans to concentrate on the smaller issues when she takes office next month.

"The first is, I really want a return to basic city services," said Hahn, whose brother is Mayor-elect James Hahn. "We all have been walking precincts, and overall people have spoken with a loud voice. We have to get back to basics, like fixing sidewalks."

Councilwoman-elect Perry--who won 57% of the vote in her central-city 9th District--said she plans to immediately build a transition team.

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Times staff writers Sue Fox, Jean Guccione, Annette Kondo and Caitlin Liu contributed to this story.

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