HAWTHORNE — A part-time tax consultant will become the first woman mayor of Hawthorne, following municipal elections this week in which residents appeared to vote for continuity in city government after a hard-fought campaign that attracted few voters.
In the mayoral race, Betty J. Ainsworth, 59, a seven-year veteran of the City Council, easily defeated John B. Bernadou, who ran a token campaign. The vote was 2,795 to 787 with only 16% of those registered voting.
"It means a continuing-on of current programs," said Ainsworth, who will serve a two-year term.
City Council incumbents David York, 48, operations manager of Centre Properties Ltd., which manages commercial and industrial properties, and Charles Bookhammer, 37, owner of an insurance agency, were reelected and will serve four-year terms. They both stressed their roles in adding "harmony" and "stability" to city government during their campaigns.
York pulled in 1,631 votes. Bookhammer got 1,630, defeating Ginny McGinnis Lambert, the nearest challenger, by 412 votes.
With the count still incomplete on election night, attention had already turned to the unanswered question of determining a replacement for Ainsworth when she vacates her council seat to become mayor on Nov. 25.
The council has 30 days from the election to appoint a successor or call for a special election to be held within 90 days. If the council takes no action, state law requires that a special election be held within 90 days.
The last time a similar situation occurred was in 1983 when council member Guy Hocker became the city's first elected mayor. The council appointed Bookhammer, then the third-highest voter-getter in separate council elections, to fill Hocker's vacated seat. Hocker decided not to run for reelection this year.
Variety of Charges
In the City Council race, challengers made a variety of charges against the incumbents in the final days of the campaign.
The last-minute barrage, criticized as unfair by York and Bookhammer, may prejudice the chances of challengers hoping for an appointment to the council, the two incumbents said.
However, Ainsworth said on election night that she would follow her announced plan of supporting the candidate who ran third, in this case Lambert.
Lambert, 53, an executive assistant at Northrop Corp., said she expected the council to honor the precedent established by the 1983 Bookhammer appointment. "I would expect that they would appoint me also," she said.
May Affect Choice
But Bookhammer and York said they had not made up their minds and that the conduct during the campaign may affect their decisions. They singled out for criticism mailers sent out by Lambert, Ray Pearcy and Richard Mansfield in the last week of the campaign.
"Mansfield put out one that is misleading," Bookhammer said. "Pearcy put out one that was an out-and-out lie. Lambert put out one that misquoted." All three candidates denied any wrongdoing.
At his victory party, York said, "There have been some people around here, who said, 'If candidates lie, misquote, misrepresent, are deceitful enough through the campaign process, what are they going to be like if you put them in office?' I hadn't really thought about that until it was brought up to me. We have a good community. They deserve having people open and honest with them."
Lambert, who received 1,218 votes, attacked York in a brochure.
"Ooops! What Councilman David York forgot to tell you . . . " it said on the front. On the back of the brochure, Lambert attacked a statement by York that crime was declining, citing categories of crime showing an increase. She said he neglected the dangers of overdevelopment. She said a 3.5% utility tax that York voted for was unnecessary.
York said a backlash against the Lambert attack had helped him. "I feel that the city is sick and tired of smear tactics in politics," he said.
Lambert defended her brochure. "That was his voting record," she said on election night, adding, "I hope to be able to work with anyone who is on the council."
Pearcy, who came in fifth with 980 votes, sent out a mailer that said on the front: "Are elected officials above the law?" On the back, it said that Proposition 13 required city referendums on tax increases and continued, "Councilmen York and Bookhammer both ignored the law and raised your taxes without allowing you to vote on them."
At the time the utility tax was imposed by a unanimous council vote, the city was facing a $1.7-million shortfall resulting from a personnel increase in the Police Department. Proposition 13, which requires ballot approval for property tax increases, does not restrict the imposition of utility taxes.
Bookhammer responded: "Ray Pearcy was the president of the Chamber of Commerce and chaired the committee that recommended to the council a 3.5% tax.
"This hit the mail last Friday. He had numerous forums and newspaper interviews in which to raise this issue in time so we could answer this smear."