LONG BEACH — In a long election night for incumbents, Councilman Warren Harwood Tuesday survived a surprisingly stiff test while Councilwomen Eunice Sato and Jan Hall fell short of the required majority in two bitterly contested races that must now continue through a June 3 runoff election.
Lawyers Ron Batson and Evan Anderson Braude will also be in a June runoff after pulling away from a 14-candidate field in a race to see who will replace retiring 1st District Councilman Marc A. Wilder.
In all, 26 candidates vied for four $12,600-a-year seats on the nine-member City Council in what was apparently the most expensive municipal election ever held here. Only Harwood emerged a clear victor, and he was stunned and politically staggered at the end.
Citywide, 24,943 of 75,421 registered voters, or 33.07%, went to the polls, up about 9% from the 1982 primary, when council members from odd-numbered districts were last elected. Members from even-numbered districts will be chosen in 1988.
Mayor Ernie Kell, who received nearly 80% of the 5th District's votes in 1982, was unopposed and has been reappointed to a fourth term on the council.
For all other council members it was a tough campaign.
Even in Harwood's 9th District, where the incumbent had tucked a piece of paper predicting a 60% win into his shirt pocket, a large early lead evaporated. Finally, at 19 minutes after midnight, a nervous Harwood was told he would not have to face retired fire captain Ralph R. Howe in a runoff.
Howe, who has lived in the district only four months and was attacked by all four opponents as a carpetbagger, pulled a surprising 1,434 votes, 37.2%, to Harwood's 1,973 votes, 51.2%, despite being outspent by a 2-to-1 margin.
Hall's 3rd District race, in which she and dentist Jim Serles have raised nearly $130,000, provided the most tension during an exhausting election night.
Hall, 43, fell behind early, climbed past the 45-year-old Serles after half the votes were counted, and held a 50.52% majority--enough to avoid a runoff--with only absentee votes to be counted. It looked like a carbon copy of 1982, when Hall got 50.67% in the primary to frustrate Serles.
This time, however, Serles made up 220 votes of his 328-vote deficit with the absentee ballots to drop Hall below a majority. The councilwoman ended with 4,569 votes for 49.07% to Serles' 4,461, 47.91%
In another standoff that felt like a win, challenger Ray Grabinski celebrated well into the night after serving notice to Sato, an easy winner in three previous races, that she would not coast through this election.
Grabinski, 42, a neighborhood activist and delicatessen owner, had walked the 7th District for nearly a year, giving sponges as gifts and grabbing endorsements from an array of special interest and community groups. He withstood the consistent efforts of Sato, who'd been virtually a full-time council member since 1975, grabbing 2,896 votes for 45.8%, to her 3,023, 47.83%.
"I expected more of a margin," said a subdued Sato, who'd predicted at least a 2 to 1 win. "I know I have more support than Ray does, but I guess some of them thought the margin was so wide they didn't bother to vote."
Grabinski said his showing "typifies what grass roots is all about. . . . It shows that diverse groups can work together. If I'd just walked the precincts by myself, I'd still be behind."
The race in the city's downtown District 1, which had drawn a remarkable assortment of candidates, is now down to its two lawyers, Batson and Braude. Wilder aide and endorsee Joy Melton, who'd been the early favorite, finished third.
Braude, the stepson of popular Long Beach Rep. Glenn M. Anderson (D-Harbor City), was backed by big money and propelled by a 20-week, door-to-door effort. Batson, supported by Assemblyman Dennis Brown (R-Long Beach) and Rep. Daniel E. Lungren (R-Long Beach), spent heavily from his own pocket to tell voters that Braude and others were opportunists who'd recently moved to the 1st District to run for office.
"I think the basic issue is still going to be longtime resident versus newcomer," said Batson, who received 1,129 votes to Braude's 1,118.
Braude criticized Batson for his "dirty" campaign. "I hope this will be a positive type campaign where we'll be able to discuss the issues," Braude said.
None of the four races was easy.
The heavily financed 1st District race came down to a contest between Batson, Braude, Melton and Jenny Oropeza, a 28-year-old legislative assistant who would have been the council's first Latino member.
Money, Batson said, "will play a big role" in the general election race. "I think (Braude) can out-money me," Batson said.
Braude raised $16,000 in one recent month and had gathered $30,000 by March 22, more than twice that spent by Wilder for reelection in 1982. Batson said he spent $25,000, most of it his own money, while Oropeza and Melton had said they would spend about $20,000 by election day.