ROSEMEAD — Dennis McDonald squeezed by Robert De Cocker to fill a vacant City Council seat Tuesday, and voters passed a measure approving an increase in the hotel and motel room tax from 6% to 8%.
McDonald attributed his victory over seven other candidates to his vigorous campaign, while De Cocker, who lost by only 20 votes, wondered how he could have closed that slim margin.
"I sold myself to the voters by working hard and campaigning door-to-door," said McDonald, a member of the Rosemead school board. "I had to get my name and qualifications in front of the people, and people like to vote for someone they have met or talked to."
But De Cocker, a member of the Planning Commission, said he also walked the precincts and made phone calls. "I am wondering what we did wrong and what (McDonald) did right," he said.
De Cocker, 60, said he does not know if he will ask for a recount.
City officials were elated that 55% of the voters supported the room tax, which the council approved in July. The measure got the support of 1,134 voters, while 913 voted against it.
A total of 2,234 voters, or 15.7% of the city's 14,300 registered voters, cast ballots.
The increase in the room tax will provide $60,000 in annual revenue. City officials have already earmarked that additional money for the next four years to construct a visitors center and headquarters for the Chamber of Commerce.
City Manager Frank Tripepi said he thinks Rosemead is the first city in the state to obtain voter approval for any tax increase as mandated by Proposition 62, which was passed last November. That measure stipulates that routine tax increases that previously could be passed by city councils now need voter approval. City officials were concerned that voters would reject any tax measure.
There were no clear-cut front- runners in the council race to replace Louis Tury Jr., who resigned in October after pleading guilty to paying kickbacks for defense contracts for his machine shop.
McDonald will serve the remainder of Tury's term, which expires in April, 1990.
McDonald, 44, head of the fire prevention bureau for the El Monte Fire Department, has lived in Rosemead since 1952. He was elected to the Rosemead school board in November, 1985, serves as president of the Kiwanis Club and is a member of the Rosemead Adult School advisory board.
McDonald received 509 votes, or 23.1%, and De Cocker 490, or 22.3%
They were trailed by Thomas D. O'Dell, with 368, or 16.7%; Jack W. Clair, 354 or 16.1%; Don Detora, 233 or 10.6%; Rudolfo Ruiz, 95 or 4.3%; Frank Delia, 79 or 3.6%, and Warren Davis, 72 or 3.3%.