INGLEWOOD — In an election that became a test of political muscle between the city's mayor and an influential assemblyman, mayoral-backed candidates in both the school board and City Council races were the winners in Tuesday's voting.
With a 15% voter turnout, City Councilmen Daniel K. Tabor and Anthony Scardenzan easily won second terms in their districts.
Incumbent Trustee Caroline Coleman, who was arraigned in court last week on a felony charge of misuse of public funds, narrowly avoided a runoff with 51% of the vote. Ernest Shaw beat incumbent Ronni Cooper for school board Seat 2, while incumbent Rose Mary Benjamin was forced into a runoff for Seat 3 against Wanda Brown.
In the race, Mayor Edward Vincent backed an "Inglewood Democratic Team" slate that included Tabor, Scardenzan--who said he didn't want the mayor's endorsement--Coleman, Shaw and Brown.
Assemblyman Curtis Tucker (D-Inglewood) endorsed Yvonne Mitchell against Tabor and challenger Karen Bonner Gill against Coleman. He also endorsed school board incumbents Cooper and Benjamin in their reelection bids.
In recent weeks the assemblyman had accused Vincent of attempting to build a political machine based on cronyism that would control the school board as well as the City Council.
Vincent professed astonishment at Tucker's charges, saying he "didn't understand these attacks," and had no designs on the school board other than to "lend a helping hand where that's possible."
In an interview Wednesday, Tucker said he is "broken-hearted" over the results of the election, and said his priority now will be fighting to keep Benjamin in her seat.
'Really Got Control'
"Vincent got what he wanted," Tucker said. "He's got a lock on the City Council and the school board. He's really got control now."
Vincent was unavailable for comment Wednesday.
Tucker also expressed astonishment at Coleman's win, saying, "It tells me that people were reading the mailers coming from the mayor's office rather than the accounts in the press of her activities. I find it incredible that a school board member who's up on felony charges could be reelected."
"There was just too much money and political influence being tossed around," he said.
Fight Not Over
But, Tucker warned, the fight is far from over, and when Vincent comes up for reelection in 1986, "the gloves are off."
Tabor, who won against District 1 challengers Mitchell and Donald McClure with 1,913 votes, or 64.5%, found himself caught in the cross fire of the feud between Vincent and Tucker. In the weeks before the election, Tucker said anyone supporting the mayor should resign. Tabor has been allied with Vincent in the past, although he maintains that "fundamental differences" exist between him and Vincent on certain issues.
Scardenzan, who faced no serious competition for his District 2 council seat, won 866 votes, or 75%. Opponents Jess Willard, Lee Smith and Andrew Chapralis garnered less than 10% of the vote each.
While political mailers included the first-term councilman on Vincent's "Inglewood Democratic Team" slate, Scardenzan--a lifelong Republican--said he neither sought nor desired the endorsement of the mayor and was unwilling to be associated with the slate.
In the school board race, Coleman was returned for a third term when she outdistanced Gill by a comfortable 1,000-vote margin. Gill netted 35.7% of the vote, while perennial candidate Mildred McNair got 13.3%.
Coleman, a longtime political ally of the mayor, credited her win not only to Vincent, but to a lineup of heavyweight endorsements from such politicians as Congressmen Julian Dixon (D-Los Angeles), Mervyn Dymally (D-Compton), and from the Inglewood Teachers' Assn.
"I'm so pleased," Coleman said Wednesday. "I didn't know how all this would affect the election, but I think the voters have shown they are willing to see what the facts are before they make a judgment."
Coleman has been the subject of an eight-month investigation by the Los Angeles district attorney's office into charges that she submitted false expense claims for more than $1,500 in connection with a November, 1983, education conference in New Orleans. Now awaiting a date for her preliminary hearing, the 47-year-old probation officer faces up to three years in prison if convicted, and would be barred from holding public office.
In the race for school board Seat 2, Shaw, an assistant principal in the Los Angeles Unified School District, trounced incumbent Cooper with 53.1% of the vote against Cooper's 40.8%. Opponent Michael Davis came in a distant third with 5.9%.
With 32.3% of the vote, Benjamin now faces a runoff for her school board seat against top vote-getter Wanda Brown, who netted 45.2%. James Cousar trailed with 22.6%. If elected, Brown has vowed that replacing Inglewood Unified School District Supt. Rex Fortune will be her top priority.