INGLEWOOD — City Councilman Virgle Benson, who has been soliciting support for a reelection bid since the first of the year, said he "simply forgot" to file nomination papers to run for a second term.
"I messed up. I can't explain it and I can't blame anyone but myself."
Still, the 4th District councilman said he will mount a write-in campaign to win a second term.
Candidates for the April 7 election had to file nomination papers with the city clerk's office by 5 p.m. last Thursday. Benson picked up his nomination papers shortly after the filing period opened on Jan. 8, but said he put off filing them until the last day and then forgot about the deadline until it was too late.
"When I realized that it was the deadline day, I was tied up in traffic in Orange County," Benson said during an interview. He said he had spent the evening before the filing deadline discussing his reelection bid and other issues with a Lockhaven neighborhood block club.
To be a write-in candidate, Benson must file special nomination papers with the city clerk 14 days before the election.
As far as city officials could determine, there have been no successful write-in candidates in Inglewood.
A realty appraiser for the California Department of Veterans Affairs, Benson, 45, has lived in Inglewood for 10 years. He was first elected to the council in 1983.
Benson, 45, said he is determined to stay in the race and was contacting community leaders in his district this week to let them know about his write-in candidacy.
"This is just another hurdle that I have created for myself that I will have to overcome," Benson said.
"I planned to run for office all along and I think the people in the district will look at my track record as a councilman and understand that this is just an oversight."
One of Benson's opponents, however, said the error may cripple his credibility. "I think that Virgle had plenty of time to turn his papers in if he was really sincere about seeking reelection, " said 4th District candidate Garland Hardeman, a five-year Inglewood resident and Los Angeles police officer. "It would really be tough for him to turn this one around."
Benson, who has had strong support from neighborhood and community groups in the past, maintained that he is "a strong enough contender to get past something like this."
Also seeking the 4th District seat are William Jenkins, a longtime resident and retired shipping clerk, and Joseph Young, a black studies student. Jenkins finished a distant second-place in the 1983 council race. Neither could be reached for comment this week.