COMPTON — Outspoken Councilman Maxcy Filer's last-minute decision to challenge his friend, incumbent Mayor Walter Tucker, has added an intriguing dimension to an April 16 municipal election already notable for contentious candidates and debates on crime and redevelopment.
By the close of filing last Saturday, 13 candidates were vying for three City Council positions, including the mayor's post, and six others were seeking jobs as city attorney, clerk or treasurer.
Council candidate James Hays Jr. and clerk candidate Louis Johnson have been kept off the ballot, however, in a dispute over signatures on their nominating petitions. Both said they would go to court to get on the ballot, and, if unsuccessful, run write-in campaigns.
Council candidate Walter Goodin was also disqualified originally, but was reinstated Thursday after City Clerk Charles Davis approved four signatures he had earlier rejected.
The race for mayor, apparently a sure thing for Tucker until Filer announced, stands out because it matches two of the city's most popular politicians.
Filer, 54, a councilman since 1976, has been reelected twice without a runoff, winning with 71% of the vote against two opponents in 1983.
Defeated Cade in 1981
Tucker, 60, a former school board member and councilman, defeated incumbent Mayor Lionel Cade with 61% of the vote in 1981.
Each man has lived in Compton at least 30 years and has been intimately involved in public life for most of that time.
Tucker is a dentist whose wife, Martha, founded the Compton New Image Committee in 1982. Filer helps run a center where teen-agers are taught about government, and his son, Kelvin, is president of the local school board. Filer is also a part-time aide to Assemblyman Frank Vicencia (D-Bellflower).
Both Filer and Tucker insist they will campaign without rancor and, when the election is over, continue to work together with no more than their usual differences.
Filer flatly refuses to comment on Tucker's record, and Tucker will only cautiously suggest that he may benefit if his record is compared to Filer's.
"He's running for the seat. I hope he's not running against me, because we're supposed to be friends," Tucker said. "But he has voted against a lot of the building we have done, and he voted no on (City Manager) Laverta (Montgomery)."
Tucker said that despite Filer's negative vote the council chose Laverta Montgomery as city manager in 1983 and that she has helped Compton begin to rebuild.
Filer recently voted against a $30-million hotel-convention center set to start construction this spring, and he has opposed many city construction projects, Tucker noted.
Filer also is sometimes abrupt and has gone so far as to "browbeat" other council members during discussions, said Tucker. "I try to be fair and impartial and work with people," the mayor said.
Filer would not respond to this portrayal of him. "He can make any comment he wants," Filer said. "I won't comment, and when this is over, I will move on."
He did say, however, that Compton can improve itself more by enforcing existing laws than by continually supporting multimillion-dollar projects that may not be needed.
"I just want to make sure that the building codes, the graffiti codes and the removal of inoperable vehicle codes are enforced," he said. "And I think I can do it better from the mayoralty position. I'm trying to do it now, and I haven't been able to. The community will have more pride if they see we are doing things."
The mayor is guaranteed no more power than the four other City Council members, but can be influential as chairman at meetings and spokesman for the city. Each council member, including the mayor, receives $1,200 a month in salary plus $300 for expenses for the part-time job. If Filer is elected, the council will appoint a replacement to serve the final two years of his term.
Filer said he expects to spend $3,000 while waging a door-to-door campaign, while Tucker said he would spend between $25,000 and $30,000 in addition to walking districts.
Also running for mayor are Edward Loney, 44, and Willie Bobbitt, 46. Loney, who has campaigned unsuccessfully for the school board and council, is an equipment operator for the Los Angeles County Sanitation Department. Bobbitt said he is a supervisor for a construction company.
Stiff Challenge Faced
In another highly competitive spring campaign, Floyd James, 2nd District councilman since 1977 is challenged by Patricia Moore, president of the city's 1,500-member United Council of Block Clubs, and Hays , director of the Compton YMCA.
James, 44, a self-described real estate speculator who also runs a dry-cleaning business, said his campaign will center on the success of redevelopment--widened streets, new warehouses, businesses and apartments. But Moore and Hays said those successes have touched far too few residents of Compton.