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Measure Would Limit Council Terms to 2 Straight : Initiative Has Incumbents Opening War Chests

August 07, 1986|STEVEN R. CHURM | Times Staff Writer

CERRITOS — With a probable run for a third term still two years away, Mayor Don Knabe was sitting pretty, with $9,164 in the bank.

But this week Knabe acknowledged for the first time that he will probably crack that campaign nest egg to help finance opposition to a ballot initiative that threatens his political career in the city.

Knabe and three of the current council members oppose a measure on the November ballot that would prevent council members from serving more than two consecutive four-year terms. When proponents first announced plans in mid-April to qualify the initiative for the ballot, Knabe said he would not campaign actively against it, although he opposed it on the grounds that voters should decide whether a two-term incumbent is still effective as a leader.

But this week the mayor said he will personally contribute to a political action committee that is being formed to raise money to defeat the measure on Nov. 4. He said he hasn't decided how much he will eventually contribute. "But I believe it is an important enough issue to get personally involved . . . and I plan to back it up with money."

Both Knabe and Councilman Daniel K. Wong have indicated that they will probably seek third terms in April, 1988. But if the two-term limit passes this fall, it's doubtful they could run for reelection barring a court challenge to the initiative.

Incumbent Supports It

Besides Knabe and Wong, council members Diana S. Needham and Barry A. Rabbitt oppose the measure. Only Councilwoman Ann B. Joynt supports it.

As required by law, both Knabe and Wong recently filed semi-annual campaign contribution statements at City Hall.

While Knabe has $9,164 in his account, Wong has $31,097, a carry-over from his successful reelection campaign in 1984. Under the state Elections Code, both Knabe and Wong could use their personal campaign funds to fight the two-term limit, said Lyn Montgomery, a spokeswoman for the Fair Political Practices Commission in Sacramento. About the only thing they cannot use the money for is personal expenditures, she said.

"If they can show that the use is related to a legislative, governmental or political purpose, like a ballot measure," it is generally allowed . . . ," Montgomery said this week.

Records show that Wong began building his sizeable campaign account in 1982 when he held a Los Angeles dinner to raise money for an unsuccessful try for Congress in the 34th District. He later mulled the idea of running for Assembly in the 63rd District, but wound up seeking reelection to the council in 1984, all the while picking up thousands of dollars in contributions.

Wong, who has said that he will spend whatever it takes to defeat the two-term limit, is vacationing in the Far East and could not be reached for comment about whether he plans to use his campaign funds against the ballot initiative.

Proponents say the measure is an attempt to lessen the power of the incumbency that they claim is a big advantage for council members in raising money and votes at election time. It is also an attempt, they argue, to inject new blood in city government.

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