After a week of uncertainty, veteran Los Angeles Community College District trustee Arthur Bronson learned Wednesday that he will face a June runoff election against former city school board member Richard Ferraro.
The final vote count showed Bronson with 49.7% of the 518,610 votes cast in the nine-campus district. He needed more than 50% to win reelection outright.
Ferraro, a conservative retired teacher who lost his Eastside seat on the Los Angeles Unified School District board to Larry Gonzalez in 1983, received 27.1% of the vote.
The final tally, which the city clerk's office said was completed at 2 a.m. Wednesday, was delayed a week while an unexpectedly large number of absentee ballots--more than 43,000--were verified by hand.
On Election Night, officials in the city clerk's office estimated that 10,000 to 12,000 absentee ballots received April 8 and on Election Day had remained uncounted. That figured turned out to be nearly 22,000, said Joe Giles, supervisor in the election division.
The use of absentee ballots has been rising sharply in recent years, Giles noted, and more than twice as many were cast in this election than in the 1983 municipal election. In response to criticism about the delay in counting absentee ballots, City Clerk Elias Martinez said Wednesday that his office is exploring ways to streamline the system, including standardizing forms to permit use of automated optical scanners.
The final totals did not affect the outcome of any other races.
Bronson, a board member since 1971, thought he had won reelection until a ballot mix-up was discovered two days after voters went to the polls April 9. Bronson had been clinging to a razor-thin victory margin until the clerk's office found that 13,000 Burbank-area ballots had not been added to official tallies.
With Wednesday's confirmation of a runoff, Bronson braced for the toughest political fight of his career.
He signaled that he may adopt an aggressive strategy against Ferraro, whose abrasive, unstudied style was criticized by colleagues during his tenure on the city school board. "I would not give him high grades for boardsmanship or getting anything accomplished in a positive manner," Bronson said.
Ferraro, who has won tough political contests before, has been able to capitalize on dissatisfaction over a series of problems in the struggling college district, including dropping enrollment, cutbacks in classes and state funds and delays in distribution of student aid. He indicated that he will hammer at the close relationship of the board with the faculty union, which endorsed all three incumbent trustees who were running for reelection.
The other two incumbents, Wallace Albertson and Lindsey Conner, won their races.
The union was a major contributor to Bronson's campaign and is expected to provide additional support for him in the runoff.
"This very cozy arrangement that Bronson and the Board of Trustees have with the union leadership is indicative of the problems," Ferraro said.
When the final vote results were released, Ferraro immediately challenged Bronson to a series of debates. Bronson said he would withhold a decision on participating until he consults with campaign advisers.