TORRANCE — A municipal election that held initial promise of some excitement has settled into a lackluster contest with eight candidates, including two incumbents, vying for three City Council seats.
The mayoral race had been expected to pit Councilwoman Katy Geissert against Councilman Bill Applegate in what was perceived as a battle between the interests of homeowners--presumably represented by Geissert--and those of the business community, with whom Applegate is associated. But Applegate in October decided instead to run for reelection to the council.
Some observers speculated that Applegate decided against running for mayor because he realized he could not beat Geissert. Applegate, however, said his decision was based on the fact that the mayor's job would take time from other community activities that he wanted to pursue.
Another potentially hot race fizzled last summer when City Clerk Donna Babb, who is being investigated by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office in connection with allegations that Babb used city funds and city employees for personal and political purposes, announced that she would not seek reelection.
A month before Babb's announcement, former City Councilman Donald E. Wilson said he would run for clerk. He cited the investigation, saying that he wanted to restore integrity to the office.
Surprisingly, there has been some excitement in the race for city treasurer, in which five-term incumbent Thomas C. Rupert, 52, is being challenged by 61-year-old Pauline Greer, an accountant in the city Finance Department.
At last week's candidate's forum held by the League of Women Voters, Greer accused Rupert of keeping poor records and of spending too much time in Sacramento as the city's legislative lobbyist on financial matters.
Rupert responded that he only spends about 30% of his time lobbying, a duty that he said had been assigned to him by the City Council in the early 1970s because of his financial background and to supplement his income as treasurer.
Rupert, who is expected to win reelection, is paid about $43,000 a year. Nearly $23,000 of that is for his lobbying work.
The City Clerk is paid about $34,000 annually. The clerk and treasurer are the only full-time elected positions in the city.
The race for three council seats lost its chance for excitement when Applegate decided not to run for mayor. He and the other incumbent in that race, Councilman Mark Wirth, are expected to win reelection.
City Clerk Babb predicted that about 12% of the 69,130 registered voters would cast ballots at the polls, which will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Candidates have disagreed over little at a number of forums. In fact, as they took turns answering the same questions, most of them seemed to repeat each other's positions.
Most seem to agree that the city is in good shape financially, that growth has been steady and that Torrance is generally headed in the right direction.
All have come out in favor of "balanced" development that provides a financial base for the city but does not infringe on the quality of life for homeowners. All agree that traffic is a problem and all say long-range plans need to be developed to ease creeping gridlock.
Following is a brief profile of the eight council candidates, in alphabetical order.
- Applegate, 42, seeking a third term on the council, owns a company that negotiates commercial and industrial real estate sales. He is chairman of the board of the Torrance-South Bay YMCA and is a board member of Harbor Developmental Disabilities Foundation. He has served on the city's Water and Civil Service commissions and is also past president of the Torrance Jaycees. Applegate is married and has two sons in high school. He has been endorsed by outgoing Mayor Jim Armstrong and first-year Councilman George Nakano.
Applegate has defended his opposition to the civic center Fine Arts Complex project, saying that although he favors the idea, the city should not go $9 million into debt to pay off the bond. He said he is not necessarily pro-business, as some have charged. "I try to be fair with everyone," he said. "I'm on the City Council because I live and work here and I want it to be the best city possible."
Most of his campaign funds were raised between May and December of last year when he was considering running for mayor. His campaign statement--the most recent statements were filed last Friday for the period up to Feb. 15--showed that he had raised a total of $24,949, with more than $3,400 of it in 79 individual contributions of less than $100. Most of the remainder came from developers or development-related political action committees that have done business in the city.