NORWALK — This year's campaign for City Council is the costliest and perhaps the most bitterly fought race in the city's 29-year history.
Seeking reelection April 8 are Mayor Marcial (Rod) Rodriguez, 53, and Councilmen Cecil Green, 61, and Lou Banas, 39. Six challengers include two former city officials who were forced from office by the current five-member council.
They are former City Administrator William H. Kraus, 47, who resigned under fire in 1983 after a decade in office, and Grace Musquiz Napolitano, 48, a 12-year member on the city's International Friendship Commission who was removed from that panel by the present council in 1984.
While Kraus and Napolitano denied they are seeking political revenge, the intensity of the campaign has been unusual in this city of 85,232, where no council member has lost a bid for reelection since 1958.
Banas flatly admits that without Kraus and Napolitano in the race, "the incumbents would walk in with relative ease."
'Trust Our Judgment'
Regarding the forced departure of Kraus and Napolitano from city government, Banas said, "The people are going to have to trust our judgment that we made the right moves."
Four other challengers are on the ballot: Bob Espinosa, 32, a lawyer; Louis C. Krebs Jr., a 41-year-old mechanic; William Brady, 48, a businessman, and Guy Churchouse, 39, a lawyer.
The incumbents have raised and spent thousands of dollars to win reelection to four-year terms that pay only $622 a month.
The latest campaign finance reports on file say that, as of Feb. 22, Green had raised $35,205 and spent $11,418, Rodriguez had raised $16,679 and spent $12,147, while Banas had raised $11,016 and spent spent $5,595.
In past council elections, Rodriguez holds the record for campaign contributions with $9,285 in 1982, and for campaign spending, with $9,056 that same year.
All three incumbents have accepted contributions from firms that do business with the city.
$2,500 From Cable Firm
Green's largest contributors include $2,500 from Falcon Communications of Pasadena, which holds the city's cable TV contract; $2,000 from Norwalk Toyota, which last year in expanding its business purchased a small piece of property that was condemned by the city's redevelopment agency, and $1,250 from R. F. Dickson Co. of Downey, which holds a contract to sweep Norwalk streets.
Rodriguez's campaign chest includes $1,100 in contributions from Mullikin Medical Center of Artesia, which provides medical care under a group plan for city employees, and $1,000 from Aquire Corp. of Norwalk, an auto auctioneer that leases property from the city.
Banas' contributions include $1,000 from Consolidated Disposal Service Inc. of Santa Fe Springs, a firm that has a contract with the city to haul trash, and $1,000 from Keystone Ford Inc. of Norwalk, a firm that has sold cars to the city.
Among the challengers, as of Feb. 22, Napolitano had raised $21,204, including $15,300 that she has loaned her campaign. She had spent $16,442, according to city records, while Kraus had raised $869 and spent $462.
As of Feb. 22, Espinosa had raised $2,213 and spent $1,896, while Brady, Krebs and Churchouse all filed papers that said they plan to raise and spend less than $500 during the campaign.
Rodriguez and Banas--both elected to the council for the first time in 1982--said they should be reelected because of the success of the city's 2-year-old redevelopment program. Since 1984, the council, sitting as the city's redevelopment agency, has approved $39 million in new development, including shopping centers, condominiums and apartments, and a renovation of stores along Front Street.
Price Club Lured Away
Last December, in a major move, the agency enticed the Price Club to move from Cerritos to Norwalk. When the store opens in August, it is expected to provide the city with $800,000 in annual sales taxes, said Michael Wagner, the city's redevelopment director.
In the past two years, the council also has given preliminary approval to $90-million worth of new development. The projects include an eight-story hotel and office complex on the former Wright School property, a major expansion of the Paddison Square shopping center, and the addition of a Ralphs grocery store that will occupy the former Zodys department store building on Imperial Highway, Wagner said.
"We've started building a new Norwalk," said Rodriguez, a salesman for the Prudential Insurance Co.
"The Price Club was a major coup," said Banas, a customer relations manager for General Telephone of California.