LONG BEACH — Councilman Warren Harwood, once the quintessential political underdog, now finds himself in an unfamiliar position. The Establishment has begun to like him--or at least to support him.
Outspent about 7 to 1 when he won his District 9 seat in 1982, Harwood has already raised $23,000 for this campaign--2 1/2 times the combined total of his four opponents.
Shunned by the city's rich and powerful in his first run for council in 1978 and again four years later, he has gained support this time from firefighter and police unions, from major developers and Mayor Ernie Kell, and from such Establishment stalwarts as the Board of Realtors, the Grand Prix Assn., Douglas Aircraft Co. and a majority of the Harbor Commission.
As recently as this week, Harwood, 46, was still cultivating his image as a political outsider who fights for North Long Beach, regardless of the consequences. "Downtown business interests," irritated by his independence, have moved their own candidate into the district to run against him, he insisted.
But, as Harwood's stack of endorsements and campaign contributions has grown, he has also begun to emphasize what he sees as his ability to work in City Hall and with Long Beach powers that be.
"People who had no basis to judge me four years ago are now finding my actions compatible with those of the community at large," he said.
Harwood's support for expansion of the Convention Center is one example of his citywide scope of interest, he said.
His opponents, however, say Harwood's fund-raising strength shows only a hedging of bets by those who no longer doubt that the councilman, a tireless door-to-door campaigner, can win an election.
But, they insist, Harwood has littered the 9th District with broken promises and is vulnerable. They say the area's crime rate is high and rising, and that Harwood is ineffective in City Hall.
Harwood's challengers on the April 8 primary ballot are Ralph R. Howe, 46, a retired Downey fire chief who moved to North Long Beach last fall; Jay Cain, 45, a key punch operator and the architect of a failed campaign to recall Harwood in 1983; Johnny M. Williams, 42, a retired Army sergeant who works as a non-teaching staff assistant at Hughes Junior High School, and Carlos M. Barraza, 59, an insurance salesman who garnered 65 votes in a council run in 1982.
Council members, as part-time city employees, are paid $12,600 annually and receive insurance and retirement benefits.
The major financial backer of both Howe and Cain has been Russell Rubley, the 13-year incumbent whom Harwood routed in 1982. By Feb. 22, Rubley had contributed $2,000 to Howe's $8,358 campaign fund and $900 to Cain's $1,690 fund, according to disclosure statements.
Walked District 3 Times
Rubley's $2,000 contribution paid for a public opinion survey, a copy of which was given to Rubley, said Howe. Cain said Rubley made the survey available to him, but he did not need it because he has walked the district three times since 1983 and knows what people think.
In an interview last week, Rubley said: "I'm supporting several people. Harwood hasn't done anything."
Williams had raised $135 by late February, and Barraza claimed no campaign contributions.
Howe, a political novice whose many campaign signs have made his candidacy highly visible, insists that Harwood is in trouble. He said that no fewer than seven of the city's nine council members have offered him encouragement and a council majority has been "very supportive." However, none has contributed funds, he said.
"They don't like (Harwood)," said Howe. "In fact the first person who really asked me to come up here to get involved in this race was Jan Hall."
Councilwoman Hall said she did encourage Howe, an old friend, to run for the council, but not specifically against Harwood. "I stay out of other district races, period," she said.
Howe said that others, including some downtown businessmen and many District 9 residents, urged him to take on Harwood.
'We Get the Crumbs'
"I honestly think that, due to Mr. Harwood's inability to get along with other council people, he really can't get us our share up here in North Long Beach," said Howe. "I've talked to well over 5,000 people and they feel we're stepchildren up here--that we get the crumbs that are tossed to us."
Harwood said that his popularity among council colleagues has its ups and downs, but is of little importance.
"I have a job to do and being liked downtown doesn't necessarily mean I'm getting it done. It may mean just the opposite," he said. "And being endorsed by the mayor does indicate a good measure of effectiveness."
Mayor Kell has contributed $750 to Harwood's campaign and hosted one of his fund-raisers, said Harwood.
Like Howe, Cain and Williams insisted that North Long Beach is often forgotten at City Hall.